Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pear and cardamom cake

A lightly spiced autumnal treat of a cake, in the tarte tatin tradition. I cook this in a deep 9 inch frying pan which has a removable handle so that I can caramelise the pears, pop the cake batter over the top and put it straight in to the oven. If you don't have one, caramelise the pears and then arrange them on the bottom of a normal cake tin (8-9 inch)

150 g  butter
150 g caster sugar
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
2 tbsp milk

crushed seeds from 10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 ripe pears (depending on size)
30 g butter
30 g  soft brown sugar

Monday, August 15, 2011

Choc-orange-cranberry-almond-oat bars!

These are crammed with goodness and easy as pie to make.No easier. Absolutely NO cooking skills needed. The original recipe come's from the speedily super Nigella Express  where she calls them breakfast bars- because that's what they really are - oats, milk, sugar and nuts and seeds. But I had to add chocolate. And orange. And change the nuts. So now they're all mine!

Do note the low oven temperature.
And the oats. DO NOT whatever you do use the powdery, crumbly porridge oats. You must use rolled oats, the thicker, jumbo oats that all keep their shape. Otherwise... yuck!

And be sure you have condensed milk - which is thick like syrup, not the runny evaporated milk.

No, I don't think you're stupid. It's just easy to skim read recipes. Especially easy ones!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sugar-free american fruit muffins

Healthy cake. Which actually tastes good. Bring it on!

After OD'ing on sugar last night and with multiple half eaten over ripe bananas scattered around the house courtesy of my children, these were just the ticket for a family breakfast. Adapted from Beth Hensperger's Bread for Breakfast

Preheat oven to 170C. Oil 12 cup muffin tin.
2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 mashed bananas
juice of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs 
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sunflower/ canola oil

1/2 cup chopped pecans or 1 cup fresh blueberries - or a combination of both.

Combine dry ingredients with a balloon whisk. Combine wet ingredients with the whisk. Fold the wet into the dry ingredients. Add nuts or blueberries and fold gently in. Do not over mix. Spoon into the muffin tin. Bake for 20 mins until risen, golden and not wet dough inside when tested with a skewer.

Serve by themselves or with butter and a drizzle of honey.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lavender shortbread

A taste of summer... or old ladies with lace handkerchiefs, depending on your associations with lavender! These are gently aromatic rather than over-powering. Elegant and refined, they would not be out of place at a proper English afternoon tea - which is just what I cooked them for today, when a dear family friend in her eighties called round for tea. Leave out the lavender and it's the simplest biscuit recipe in the world. Add in a tablespoon of garam masala or the grated zest of a lemon for a totally different take on them. If you think you're not a baker, then these are a good place to start - even my father can make them - he calls them 2-4-6 biccies (because of the imperial measurements) and is known to make them for grandchildren. From beginning to end they take maximum 20 minutes to make! The only way you can go badly wrong is to overcook them. Keep an eye on them like a hawk after the first 5 minutes - under done is better than over done with these, they go bitter if they get too dark. You are looking for a pale golden colour.

Preheat oven to 180C (170C for fan oven)
Makes 25

2 oz sugar
4 oz soft butter
6 oz plain flour
1 heaped tsp fresh or dried lavender flowers (pull them off the main stem so you have lots of tiny florettes)
More lavender and sugar for sprinkling.

Rub the butter with the sugar by hand or using an electric whisk. Add flour and lavender or other flavouring. Whisk or mix to combine. Then using your hands bring it together into a ball, pushing and kneading it slightly till it is in one big lump.

Lightly flour a clean surface. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch (5mm) thick with a rolling pin. Cut out using a medium (5cm diametre) round or heart shaped biscuit cutter and place onto a non stick baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 mins, watching carefully. Remove when pale golden. Sprinkle lightly with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Remove from baking sheet onto a wire cooling rack. Sprinkle with more lavender to serve.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Mojitos - because it's summer , so it's too hot to be slaving away at a hot stove!

Juice of 5 limes
3 tbsp sugar (could be more, but start with this)
6 large sprigs of mint
200ml white rum
300-500ml soda water (can use sparkling water if necessary)- depending on how strong or long you want 'em
Lots of ice

Put the mint in a measuring jug (keep the leaves on the stalks). Add the sugar and pound for a couple of minutes with a pestle.

Roll and squeeze the juice from the limes, pour it over the minty sugar, and pound another couple of times.

Pour over the rum (you can measure it in the jug).

Top it up to the top of the jug with some of the soda water. Give it a good mix and taste it – now is the time to balance the tones- does it need more lime or sugar?

Fill a bigger jug with ice cubes, add in the mojitos and more soda water to taste.

Taste and adapt, taste and adapt! Taste, taste, taste!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

American Baking Goodies for the rest of us...

i have, I know, let slip once of twice my love of American baking, in fact most of the baking bloggers are American too, which a very happy mama me makes!

But it also causes problems: ingredients. So much of what is avaialble in the US does not exists in Ireland. Whenever I go over to visit family in America (only once every few years) I pack my bag full of American junk food and goodies to bring back!

Well now I have discovered my troubles are over -(they even have a section devoted to all the ingredients mentioned in Nigella Lawson's books!)

I am going to get a shipment of American wonders- peanut butter cups, maple flavour extract, butterscotch morsels, and gold fish crackers for my kiddies. Oooohhhh I'm excited. BUT I still can't track down mint chips for my mint brownies - might have to make my own!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mint choc brownies with hot mint choc sauce

Apologies for the absence - there has been no baking in the Pink House due to chicken pox and book-writing and birthdays. That's right, not even a birthday cake! But normal service has now resumed - and how - with these brownies!

Top of my birthday list was Fat Witch Brownies - oh my what a tempting book it is - but very American in its measurements (fine if you're an American of course!!). And today I tried my first recipe from there (see below for my tweaked version with Europeanised measurements). Oh mama! I added my own simple chocolate sauce recipe, adulterated with mint and served with vanilla ice cream - though for the total full-on experience this calls for mint-choc chip ice cream as well! These are moreish, and if you will believe me, refreshing because of the mint.

Makes 16
Preheat oven to 170 C
Line a 9 inch square tin with foil and grease with butter.

6 oz butter
4 oz chocolate (I used 3/4  70% dark and 1/4 left over Easter egg - yes we STILL have lots!!)
10 oz sugar
6 oz plain flour
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp peppermint extract/ essence
4 oz mint chips (optional )  - have no idea where to get these- but I remember them from childhood

Melt the butter and chocolate very gently in a small saucepan - remove from heat before completely melted and stir till melted. Leave to cool a little.

In a bowl whisk eggs and sugar till smooth using a electric whisk.

Add chocolate mixture, peppermint and vanilla and whisk again. Then flour and whisk briefly till combined. Fold in mint chips if using.

Pour into prepared tin and cook for 20-25 mins until a tooth pick comes out with crumbs not batter - do not over cook!

Leave to cool in the tin, cut into 16 squares. Serve alone at tea time or with ice cream and the sauce below for dessert.

Chocolate sauce 
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp good dark cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp boiling water
a few drops of peppermint extract

Mix together in a small pan, bring to boil and simmer till thick and syrupy - check for sweetness- if too sweet add a little more cocoa and use a whisk to disperse the lumps (about 5 mins). Stir in the peppermint extract totaste. Serve hot/ warm/ cold!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gingerbread robots

A quick, simple melt-it-down, one pan method for yummy gingerbread, which I originally got from a kids TV show! You don't have to make robots - how about hearts, men, planets, rabbits... or a gingerbread house.

Preheat oven to 180C

50g butter
20g white sugar
30g soft brown sugar
100g golden syrup
200g self raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Melt sugars, syrup and butter in a pan. Stir in flour and spices. Stir until combined.

Pour onto a non stick sheet of parchment. Roll out to about 3mm thick. Cut out. Cook for 10 mins, keep a careful eye on them so they don't go too dark around the edges. Cool on a wire rack before icing. Un-iced they keep well for a couple of weeks and are crisp. Iced they keep fine but are soft.

Ice with a water icing, (icing sugar mixed to a paste with a little water).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lucy Loves...chocolate

It being that time of the month, chocolate is on my mind - did you notice? It is like medicine for me... and my two little girls - melt downs and disasters are swiftly averted. A square of chocolate is adminsitered, and normality resumes.

We took delivery of our bulk order from the health food wholesalers. Usually my chocolate of choice is Divine - a fair trade bar, the 70% bar is smoky and sexy, the milk version is creamy and rich. The white with strawberries is to die for. But this time I tried the Green and Blacks (organic) cooking chocolate. Wary at first, becaase cooking chocolate usually means low cocoa mass, this is 72%. In their words, "a combination of cocoa mass, which gives the chocolate its intense flavour, and cocoa butter, which gives it a smooth consistency when melted - makes it suited perfectly for cooking & secondly, each piece of chocolate weighs exactly 5g, making it easy to measure the exact amount needed."
Clever - huh? And taste wise certainly lives up to its write up...
But the best thing? Because it is classed as "cooking" rather than "snacking" it is not a luxury item, and so you don't pay the 21% luxury VAT rate. Hurray!

We have had coconut kisses and up-cycled easter egg cake here on Queen of Puddings in the past week! And while we are on the subject - have you tried my very first posting Chocolate cherry cupcakes? Or my chocolate pavlova with raspberries? Or my red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting?
Not yet, what are you, mad?!

And my ultimate All-American chocolate cake - I have fantasies about this one! What, you're gluten-free? Then try my flour-free chocolate cake with almonds

Or feeling worthy? Then I dare you to try my secret brownies made with tofu! No one would EVER guess!

So it would be of no surprise to those of you who don't know me that I used to have a little chocolate making business... rose creams; peppermint creams; Old Morgan spiced vanilla rum truffles; spiced chocolate with orange, cinnamon and chilli;  dark chocolate dipped citrus peel...

I noticed a triple chocolate mousse cake over at The Year of the Cookie - one layer baked, one a mousse and the other lighter and fluffier. I used to love a version of this as a child which my dad and step-mother both claimed to make and I never knew who it was!  Oh the innocence of childhood, my dad would be no more capable of cooking this as push out a baby!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coconut kisses

So with the taste of the coconut mice in my mouth and half a tin of condensed milk in the fridge needing to be used up, I decided I needed an adult version.

So if you like coconut, you might just want to kiss me now! Hence the name! These are the real deal, a million times better than Bounty bars... humble, moi, not a chance!

Makes about 30

120g icing (confectioner's ) sugar
100g condensed milk
85g desiccated coconut

To coat
40g desiccated coconut
70g dark or milk chocolate

Sift icing sugar into a bowl, add condensed milk, stir until you have a paste.

Add in the coconut and stir to combine, it will be very thick now.

Roll into large marble sized balls. Then take your pick of coatings... you can do just one, or a selection of three.

Toasted coconut
Take a clean, dry frying pan and add the 40g of coconut. Put on a medium-high heat and WATCH IT LIKE A HAWK! Coconut goes from white to burnt FAST. You want a mix of white and golden shavings, NOT golden and black. Once it has reached the right level empty it immediately onto a plate to cool. 

Melted chocolate
Take 2/3 of the chocolate and break it into a bowl, and melt over a pan of simmer water. Watch and stir. DO NOT let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. When 2/3 of it is melted remove the bowl and keep stirring until totally melted. Then stir in the remaining 1/3 of the chocolate. It should start to thicken a little. This is called tempering (it is a simplified version) and should help to keep your chocolate shiny and professional looking, rather than developing a mottled look.

So now you have three can
1) Roll the kisses in toasted coconut.
2) Dip them in the melted chocolate. Put them in one by one, spoon a little extra over the top. Slip a fork underneath to remove them, letting any excess chocolate drip down, and leave to dry on some baking parchment.
3) Roll these chocolate dipped kisses in the toasted coconut.

Can keep in or out of the fridge. They won't last long... because they'll be eaten! There's nothing really to go off in them so I'm guessing they would keep happily for a few weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Coconut (m)ice

Nice and easy to make with kiddies. And rather yummy to eat...but VERY sweet!

120g icing (confectioner's ) sugar
100g condensed milk
85g desiccated coconut
1 drop red food colouring
silver decorating balls for eyes
flaked almonds or white chocolate buttons for ears
strawberry laces for tails

Sift icing sugar into a bowl, add condensed milk, stir until you have a paste.

Add 1 drop of food colour and stir. Add in the coconut and stir to combine.

Have a cup of warm water ready, dip a teaspoon into it, let it drip dry, then mould a mouse shape into it. Put it onto a board or plate covered in cling film (saran wrap)

Use balls for eyes and half buttons or almond flakes for ears and laces for tails.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Up-cycled Easter Egg Cake

There comes a time when the excitement of Easter eggs has worn off and the children are less interested in them but there are still odds and sods and bits and pieces scattered around looking lonely and unloved. Cue chocolate biscuit cake to breathe yummy new life into these no longer glossy bits of choc.

This makes a big batch, so take it to someone's house, have a party, be self-restrained OR make half quantities!

Apologies for the lack of picture - no excuse except gluttony!

400g chocolate - mix of milk and dark
175g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup (corn syrup)
200g digestive biscuits (graham crackers)
100g nuts (pecan/ brazil or hazelnuts - toasted is best) - roughly chopped or smashed
150g dried cranberries (the sweetened type) or raisins or glace cherries or a mix
100g chopped mixed peel- or mini marshmallows if you hate peel

Break all choc into small pieces and put with the syrup and butter into a pan over simmering water. Mix and DO NOT let the water touch the bowl, DO NOT let it get too hot, keep mixing and remove from heat when about 2/3 melted and continue stirring till all melted.

In a plastic freezer bag put the biscuits (and nuts if wanted) and smash to smithereens with a rolling pin. You want a mix of small chunks and crumbs.

Add the fruit, biscuit and nuts into the choc, mix well and tip out into a brownie tin (about 25cm by 30cm). Flatten down, leave to cool (this takes about 2 hours) and cut into squares. Keeps for about 10 days in a biscuit tin or extra yummy cold from the fridge - though it never lasts that long!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lucy loves...baking supplies

What is a cupcake without bling? I am not one for careful fondant icing in the shape of Shrek, but I do like easy ways to make my baking look pretty - golden sprinkles, crystalised flowers, clever cake tins.

 But living in the countryside means getting my hands on baking goodies is a challenge. So here's a round up of the best baking specialists for the UK and Ireland... please do add your favourites at the bottom.

*For all sorts of kitchen supplies and baking equipment and ingredients, a million bits you didn't even know you needed, until now! Lakeland

*An Irish-based cookware shop, Kitchen Cookware

*For professional chocolate making equipment, chocolate, crystalised flowers, candy supplies and packaging. I used them for a couple of years when running my chocolate making business and was very impressed. However, they deal with bulk orders only, Keylink

*A great selection of decorations and novelty cutters and tins, giant cupcake tins, princess skirts, pirate ships... Rainbow Sugar Craft 

*For all things pretty and sugary for cake decoration, Cupcake Style

*For cakes, decorations, cake boards, and crystalised petals and other pretty, yummy decorations, the original Queen of Cakes, Jane Asher

*Please note, I have no connection to any of these businesses and have not used all of them myself.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting

I am a newcomer to the pleasures of red velvet, as are my husband and friends. We are all evangelists now! The rich red brown cocoa sponge, balanced with the rich, creamy sweetness of a white chocolate and cream cheese frosting. Pure decadence!

The cupcakes originate from the Hummingbird Bakery cook book. The icing is mine. And boy is it good... but not good for you!

Preheat oven to 170C
12 hole cupcake/ muffin tin with  paper cases

60g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
20g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons red food colouring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar


60g unsalted butter (soft)
200g icing sugar
100g cream cheese (Philadelphia) cold from fridge
75g white chocolate

With an electric whisk beat the sugar and butter until light, add the egg. Combine cocoa, food colouring, vanilla and 2 tbsp of the buttermilk to make a smooth paste. Whisk into the butter and sugar. Add half of the buttermilk, then half the flour with baking powder added, repeat and whisk till very smooth. Then for the kitchen magic. Sprinkle the baking soda with your fingers to get rid of lumps into the centre of the batter, pour over the vinegar and watch it fizz with a child's delight. Whisk up to combine. Spoon quickly into the cases and pop into the oven. Cook for 20 mins or so till risen and set in the middle.

Cool on a wire rack, take out of the tin after 5 mins.

Leave until completely cool. Meanwhile make the icing.

Melt the chocolate gently in a bowl over boiling water. DO NOT let the bowl come in contact with the water. Remove before it is completely melted and stir as it finishes melting. White chocolate can overheat and go grainy easily. This happens even more easily with cheap  white chocolate. Leave to cool for about 10 mins.

Whisk butter and sugar with an electric whisk, if helps to add the sugar gradually so you don't get a snow storm. It WILL come together. When light and fluffy add cream cheese and whisk well. Add the cooled white chocolate, beat just until combined. Be sure that the cupcakes are completely cool before you ice them. At lest an hour after coming out of the oven.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chocolate pavlova... with raspberries and cream

For my sister, Mirin

Crisp on the outside, squidgy on the inside, fat free (before you add the cream!) and very chocolatey... served with raspberries... and cream!

3 egg whites
75 g/ 3 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp corn flour/ corn starch

Preheat oven to 150C

Whisk egg whites till stiff. Add sugar, whisk till glossy. Add other ingredients whisk until combined.

Put onto a non stick baking sheet - spread about 1 1/2 inches thick, about 9 inches in diameter. Bake for 45 mins at 150C. (It will be crisp to the touch - my oven is quite fast, so yours might need a little longer.)

When cool, cover with 250 ml cream whipped and a punnet of fresh raspberries, and dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cake for Breakfast: Popple Cake

This is a breakfast cake! Well, I ate it for breakfast, still warm from the oven. But it's delicious at coffee break or tea time too. I know, I tried it then too!!

What is a breakfast cake? Well it's higher in nutrients, contains fruit and, is lower in butter, and is not iced. It contains all the ingredients people might eat for breakfast: wheat flour, oats, fruit, eggs, buttermilk... but in cake form. It is about as worthy as cake gets. Except it doesn't taste worthy It is moist and spiced, bejewelled with plump cranberries and oh so more-ish.

I made it to use up a large jar of apple puree that I had bought for the baby. But homemade stewed apple would be perfect too, just make sure it's not too sweet.

And the name? Porridge + apple. See I told you it was healthy! It is adapted from Beth Hensperger's lovely Bread for Breakfast, another great American baking resource. So cup measures at the ready!! (I know it looks like quite a list of ingredients, but the method is simplicity itself.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lucy Loves...

My Perfect All-American Chocolate Cake - it disappeared WAY too fast, I'm missing it already! Described thus: "Imagine if a brownie and a chocolate cake had a baby. This would be it..."

I love condensed milk - preferably out of the tin with a spoon! - so this Condensed Milk Pound Cake at Sweet as Sugar Cookies sounded good to me!

The prettiest pink macaroons with raspberries and cream - you have to see these! 

Oh forgot all about this peanut butter cookie cake, got to try it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Perfect All-American Chocolate Cake

For Leigh, Lydia and Francesca

Imagine if a brownie and a chocolate cake had a baby. This would be it...

This cake is from  Rose Levy Beranbaum's authoritative Cake Bible. I made this today for my 3-year-old's birthday. The description in the Bible was pretty grand. I read it to my guests before we ate it. Partly to scoff... but, after trying it, we all agreed it was spot on - and not at all immodest.

"This cake has a full chocolate flavour and exceptionally soft, fine texture for a chocolate butter cake...Ross Horovitz, after photographing this cake of Chocolatier magazine, said "when you bite into this cake," he rhapsodised, " its seems light; then it becomes fudgy and chocolaty; then jist when you begin to think you have something, it simply vanishes so you want to take another bite!" My mother was more succinct: "It tastes like a chocolate bar but softer." And that was my goal."

So you have to try it really, don't you? (And if you love baking I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The woman is a baking goddess - scientific in the extreme in her approach and consistently perfect in her recipes.

I have adapted the recipe very slightly...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rhubarb buttermilk upside down cake with orange and cardamom

Woah what a mouthful of a title. and what a mouthful of a cake. You can just call it breakfast - like I did this morning and eat 3 slices! Treacly sharp rhubarb on a sweet, tender cake fragrant with cardamom. Combining three ideas: one from Darina Allen, one from Sarah Raven and an adapted buttermilk cake recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's wonderous Cake Bible.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lucy Loves...

What a lot of yumminess this week...

I have just discovered Food Gawker for the very best food pics in the blogosphere - be warned, you will be drooling all over your computer! I have set myself a challenge to get onto this!

My Chocolate Almond cake has been getting a lot of traffic- (and eaters!) this week.

This toasted cream coconut pie caught my eye when it popped up on my blog list this week....

Or how about a chocolate fudge ice cream pie? Whilst you're there have a good look around - wow what an archive of deliciousness! Looking good Jamie!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chocolate almond cake (gluten free)

This one's from my friend Rachael Tomkins, a regular Queen of Puddings reader. She had a winning discovery of this gluten-free chocolate cake, which uses almonds instead of flour. It went down a treat with her sister-in -aw (who is coeliac). There were no complaints from the rest of the family either apparently! It was, according to her "really easy and super yummy!!!" 

So I had to try it didn't I? And she also suggested it might be nice warm with ice cream - well what are friends for but to act on your every whim? That is my professional obligation, here at Queen of Puddings. Nothing goes on here unless it's been tried and loved first. So warm with ice cream it was. And I agree wholeheartedly. Super yummy. My two-year-old (nut hating child) is currently devouring it beside me! It also fills the house with a chocolatey fug for the whole day so you get to waft around feeling like a true domestic goddess, despite the sink stacked with washing up!

I am still on the look out for a dairy, egg and wheat-free cake for Andra - I have a great  vegan cake recipe, but it has wheat flour. Any suggestions dear readers?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Instant Donuts

No deep fat frying. No syringes. No yeast. These are my almost instant donuts which use a classic Yorkshire pudding method! They take only 20 mins start to finish... and much less time to eat (as you can see from the picture!)

Lucy Loves...

What's cooking this week?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sakura cupcakes

This is my standard cupcake recipe, quick to whip up, they keep well (if you don't eat them!!) and as light as a fairy. If you ice with a water icing they are much lower in fat than a normal cupcake: I love the creamy ultra light vanilla icing though!

The original recipe (which I have adapted) comes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book.

We served these at our cherry blossom (sakura) picnic with a spring flower tea - for this visit my other blog

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hummingbird Cake

For Mary

A variation on the carrot cake them- but with no carrot! This recipe is the Hummingbird Bakery's signature cake, hence the recipe, but they have 3 times the sugar in the icing (it must be terrifyingly sweet). I have also added some brown flour to the mix to add nutrition. In my dear friend Mary's words: "OMG that is like the BEST cake I have ever tasted!" Personally I wouldn't go THAT far... but it does look mighty impressive. Try it and see for yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Raspberry almond pudding cake

I had frozen raspberries and wanted to make a pudding for our roast chicken dinner. But didn't want crumble. So improvised this - a mix between my all time favourite River Cafe Plum and Orange cake with almonds, another fav, Nigella Lawson's Easy Almond Cake, and a remembered cake that my step mother brought over to celebrate the birth of my first daughter. We liked it, a lot. 3 adults ate 3/4 of it!

So what's it like? A damp, sweet, buttery, crumbly almond and citrus scented cake with a crisp caramelised crunchy almond topping and tart raspberries at the bottom.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Luscious lemon squares

These are light and lemony. and super quick to throw together - under half an hour from start to eat. And eat them we did. They may look simple, and are certainly a classic, I claim no great surprises here, certainly no fancy icing... but boy are they good...myself and three kiddies (5,3, and 1) wolfed down half a pan of still warm squares in less than 10 minutes. So panic not about them being too sharp-tasting for kids. They would be great for a school bake sale or unexpected guests for tea.

I made them because we had a big batch of lemons to use up, and hundreds of our yummy yellow yolked free range eggs from our dear chooks who live under the kids' trampoline. Good eggs make all the difference.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Banana Loaf Cake

For Amy, Loo and Caragh who all love this cake.

A homely cake which fills the house with a wonderful cakey fug which seductively lets everyone who enters know that you are truly a domestic goddess. A crisp crust and moist springy sponge. Kids love it. And the adults do too! It's perfect for using up those deep brown spotted bananas that populate the fruit bowl.

We eat it plain. You can butter it. Or ice it, with a cream cheese icing, a la carrot cake, or a lemony butter or even lemony water icing. All are divine. Or how about a chocolate butter icing for a kiddies birthday cake (just bake it in a round tin).

It is divine still warm from the oven, but keeps well a few days too as the banana adds moisture. Ring the changes and cater to your individual crowd's needs: add 100 g sultanas (soaked in rum or orange juice to make them extra plump), 100g chocolate chips or chunks, and/ or 60 g chopped pecans or walnuts.

With thanks to Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess and Rose Levy Beranbaum's  The Cake Bible for their combined techniques!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

All American Blueberry Muffins

For Gill

For me America is the land of baking. Pancakes, brownies, cookies, whoopie pies. They are the stuff of dreams to an Anglo-Irish girl brought up on lardy cake, scones, crumpets and victoria sponge. The summit of America's baking achievements for me is the blueberry muffin. The ease of making, the simplicity of method, the crazy indigo of the vibrant berries in the light crumbed cake. Blueberries in Europe are never as good as American ones: ours are meaner and less flavoursome. But still each time I eat one I feel I am transported back to my first bite, in America, aged nine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Secret Brownies

Brownies... the ultimate gooey, gunky chocolate sensation. But definitely NOT good for you.

Well not any more. These secret brownies are super-chocolatey yet light, gooey and cakey...and nutritious. The secret? Tofu! It replaces some of the eggs, sugar and butter. And you would NEVER know it was there! Tofu is a great low fat protein source. As well as containing all sorts of cancer protecting isoflavins and the like. I also find for some reason that they don't give me a nasty sugar high like other brownies.

You'll have to trust  me on this one. I do not do worthy bakery. But I may, in this recipe, just have found a perfect compromise. I ate six today...I'm not sure if they're THAT healthy... ah well!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


My kids know that Saturday morning means one thing, and one thing only: pancakes! They can choose between crepes (pancakes) or these classic American pancakes which we call "hotcakes". They differ from the English drop scones that I grew up with which are slightly floppier and more rubbery. The combination of buttermilk instead of milk, oil instead of butter and a dash of cornflour makes these so light and airy they could float off by themselves.

Toppings depend on the person. For me it has to be Vermont maple syrup, salty butter and if available hickory smoked American style (streaky) bacon fried till crisp. And they have to be stacked up. My children love strawberry jam or Nutella as well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Florentine Crispies

Dear friends, brace yourselves to reach heaven. Well, that is if you like white chocolate, and if you don't we may need to reassess this friendship thing. You also need to be a little nutty... (if you know what I mean!) And yes you need to like candied peel. Now I know that this seems to disqualify most of my close friends. But their loss. Myself, my husband, sister and step mother sit and gorge on these. There is a reason that I only cook them once or twice a year! that and the ingredients aren't that cheap. But boy are they a good grown up treat. Gorgeous as a snack, or an after dinner snapple.

These are grown up chocolate crispy cakes with a florentine vibe going on. Regular readers know that contains nuts= a health food in my book and it cancels out the less wholesome nature of any other ingredients contained therein!

With credit to Andrew Garrison Shot's divine book Making Fine Chocolates for the original version of this recipe.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Blondies

With thanks to Rachel Allen from whose book Bake I got the original, even sweeter, version. I know, because I know her, that she makes these for her school bake sale. Easy as pie to make, easy as sin to devour: blink and they're gone. Ditch the guilt and (like me) persuade yourself they're a health food because they've got nuts in! I nearly didn't make them. Cooked peanut butter, I thought, yuck, how American! But take it from me, if you like peanut butter these are all good!

Like brownies in texture and more-ishness, but not, obviously, in colour - hence blondies. Cunning!


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