Category Archives: Cakes etc

Adventures in self-preservation – Whisky ginger marmalade

Marmalade finishedI’m still trawling through approximately one billion photos from our wedding and honeymoon, so none of those yet. Instead, I have been taking further steps towards full domesticity by attempting to make marmalade.

When I was a kid, my mum and I would make marmalade using a handy pre-prepared tin of peel and pulp (Ma-Made, still available today) – I remember fun afternoons fogging up the kitchen windows and getting everything covered with a sticky layer of boiled sugar. But I thought I’d test out my lovely new Lakeland maslin pan by making the real deal – Nigel Slater’s seville orange marmalade.

It turns out there’s a really good reason to use the pre-prepared cans – making marmalade properly is a complete pain in the balls. The recipe starts off by telling you to “peel 1.3kg of seville oranges”. That’s about 14 oranges, and a potato peeler doesn’t work (I tried). Then you have to juice them.

That sounded like a right faff so instead I got out my Kenwood chef and found the juicer attachment. I juiced the lot, then used a grapefruit spoon (with a serrated edge) to scoop out the pith, then sliced the peel.

Marmalade prep

Next, you’re meant to put the pips in a “muslin bag” to boil up with the peel. I don’t have any muslin, so I put them in a (clean!) footsock and tied it up. It didn’t look pretty, but it did work:

pulp and pips

You then boil the peel and pips gently for about an hour or so, then stir in a load of sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. I also added in about 6 lumps of stem ginger, chopped up fairly small, and a good slug of Scotch.

Nigel then says to boil it for 15 minutes until it’s at setting point. In reality, it took at least 45 minutes to get there, so the moral of the story is to keep testing. Or get a jam thermometer, which I don’t have.

Boiling marmalade

I put in a bit more whsky and poured it neatly into jars without spilling it all over the kitchen (hurrah for jam funnels!), but it turns out I was too impatient and should have waited a few minutes more, as the peel rose to the surface. I’ll also need to wait till tomorrow to see if it’s set properly, but my taste tests along the way tell me it is delicious.

Marmalade in jars

Wedding cakery: Another ginger cake

Another attempt at a ginger cake, as I continue my quest for the top tier of my wedding cake.

Next on the list was the Gingerbread Guinness cake from Tea With Bea. I got a bit nervous as the batter was alarmingly runny, but the cake came out brilliantly and I brushed it with some syrup from a jar of stem ginger to make it extra yummy.


Unfortunately, it still had an uneven top, but after a quick Twitter chat with Bea herself, I realised that I could just slice the top off to get the perfect cake for my needs.

It tasted even better after a few days, so I reckon this one’s a keeper. I’ll make the proper tier closer to the Big Day. Now just the chocolate middle layer to go…

Wedding cakery – Making the first tier


Well, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and started making my wedding cake. On Sunday I set out to make the bottom tier – an epically huge 12 inch square fruit cake, using Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake recipe.(NB this link appears to have gone – try this from the WayBack machine internet archive or use this pdf that I’ve created)


The helpful “scaling up the fruit cake recipe” guide on her website only goes up to a 10 inch square cake, so I had to do some maths to scale it up to my 12″ square cake tin.  To help all you other bakers out there who suck as badly at maths as I do (although I have a PhD,  numbers are definitely not my forte) here’s the proportions of ingredients I used:

  • Currants 1.35kg
  • Sultanas 525g
  • Raisins 525g
  • (or just use 2.4kg mixed dried fruit)
  • Glacé cherries, finely chopped 165g
  • Mixed peel, finely chopped 165g
  • Brandy 9 tablespoons (well, plus a few sloshes more to be honest…)
  • Plain flour 675g
  • Salt 3/4 level teaspoon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg 3/4 level teaspoon (I used ground)
  • Mixed spice 1.5 level teaspoon
  • Almonds, chopped 165g (I left these out)
  • Soft brown sugar 675g
  • Black treacle 2 ¼ tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter 675g
  • 12 eggs
  • Grated rind of 3 large lemons
  • Grated rind of 3 large oranges

After the sums, the next challenge was working out how to make the damn thing.  Just soaking the dried fruit took up the biggest mixing bowl I own:

2.5kg of dried fruit!

I started by getting everything ready. There was a *lot* of butter:

That's a lot of butter

I put my trusy Kenwood Chef Titanium to work, creaming the butter and sugar, then blending in the eggs and flour. In the end, it was starting to curdle just with the eggs, so I alternated eggs and flour until I’d managed to squeeze everything in. Luckily it did look like proper cake batter at this point, which was reassuring.

Wedding cake batter

Then I had a problem – how to mix in the fruit. I ended up using my huge old stockpot as an improvised mixing bowl. I’m pretty glad that it escaped the last kitchen clearout now, as it’s no good for cooking because the enamel is cracked.

Serious mixing

I’m only little, so to get enough power to mix everything in I had to put it on the floor and use a peculiar rowing motion with the spoon, more like mixing cement than cake.

Then it was time to scoop it all into the tin (not an easy task either) and bung it in the oven. I tied some newspaper round the tin and covered the top with greaseproof paper, to help prevent it from cooking too fast. {Edited to add – as Saint Delia recommends, I cooked it at 140C. Actually I set the oven a bit lower than that as I have an over-enthusiastic fan oven. The sensible thing to do would be to use an oven thermometer to check yours, unless you know it well}

Wedding cake ready for the oven

Four and a half hours later, I tested it with a skewer and declared it done:

Baked wedding cake

I sprinkled a bit more brandy over it, left it to cool and then wrapped it up in greaseproof paper, cling film and tinfoil and put it where the mice can’t get it. Phew!

Edited to add: In response to comments, I’ve worked out the proportions for a 12 inch ROUND Delia fruit cake. These haven’t been checked or tested! This is based on the volume of a 12 inch round cake being approximately 1.25 times the volume of an 11 inch round fruit cake (the largest on the Delia website). Bear in mind this is a bit of an over-calculation. The correct proportions would come out a bit smaller but I’ve done it like this to end up with a whole number of eggs. So you may have batter left over.

  • Currants 1.125kg
  • Sultanas 440g
  • Raisins 440g
  • Glace cherries 140g
  • Mixed peel 140g
  • Brandy 7.5
  • Plain flour 560g
  • Salt ½ level teaspoon
  • Grated Nutmeg 2/3 tsp
  • Mixed spice 1 and ¼ tsp
  • Chopped almonds 140g
  • Soft brown sugar 560g
  • Black treacle 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter 560g
  • 10 eggs
  • Grated rind of 2 large lemons
  • Grated rind of 2 large oranges

Someone also asked about using a heart-shaped tin. Because it’s all done on volume you’ll need to measure the volume of your tin using water. Fill your cake tin with water, to the same level that you’d fill it with cake mixture, then measure how much water you’ve got (in millilitres). One ml of water is one cubic centimetre, if I remember correctly. NB Do this over the sink, unless you want your kitchen to be as wet as mine now is.

I just tested and my 8inch x 8 inch square cake contains roughly 2,000 ml, by way of comparison. So then you need to work out proportionally how much bigger or smaller your heart-shaped tin is, and scale up or down the recipe accordingly.
Based on the number of eggs in the recipe, I’d suggest the following:
Tin volume 2,000ml (2 litres) – use the 9 inch round/ inch square recipe (5 eggs)
Tin volume 1,600 ml (1.6 litres) – use the 8 inch round/7 inch square recipe (4 eggs)
Tin volume 800ml (0.8 litre) – use the 6 inch round/5 inch square recipe (2 eggs)gs)

Wedding cakery – in search of the perfect ginger cake

I’mplanning to make three different flavour tiers for my wedding cake – a classic rich fruit cake on the bottom, a chocolate cake in the middle, and a ginger cake on top.

In search of a tasty ginger cake recipe, I did a test bake of a 7 inch square version of Dan Lepard’s Malt Whisky and Ginger cake, which I’ve had pinned on the fridge for ages but never baked.

I doubled the recipe in order to fit the larger tin, and was a bit alarmed to see how sloppy the batter was, so I chucked in a little bit of extra flour. It also took about 1 and a half hours to bake, due to the larger size.

Although the finished cake tastes absolutely delicious and has a fabulous depth of flavour, I don’t think it’s going to be the top tier I’m looking for. Because it’s a loaf cake, the top rises and cracks quite impressively, making for an appealing teatime treat but not a neat flat top for icing:

Dan Lepard whisky ginger cake

Still, it’s been going down very well with my colleagues at work. Next I’m going to try the Gingerbread Guinness cake in my Tea with Bea cookbook, which will hopefully be a bit more well-behaved.

Wedding cakery – learning to make sugar roses

I can’t believe it was back in March 2010 that I first started thinking about designing and making my wedding cake. Now the big day is just over 2 months away, so I’d better get off my arse and actually do something about it. Balls.

I’ve got a fairly good plan of what I want to do now, incorporating some of the Rennie Mackintosh-style elements I was first inspired by. To this end, I’m going to have to learn how to do royal icing stencilling, which I’m hoping isn’t as tricky as it looks.

But I also really liked the cake at the last wedding I played at – a three tier job with roses trailing up it (from M&S, apparently). Not only has that inspired me to go for three tiers rather than the one I was planning, but I also want to make sugar roses to put on it.

Luckily, my lovely colleague Sam Squires is a bit of a whizz in the cake department, and she gave me a quick tutorial after work one day.  I don’t have detailed step-by-step pics but I think this video on Youtube is basically the same technique we used.

I took a couple of pics to remind myself what we got up to, and now all I have to do is perfect my technique, work out how many I need to make, and make them. Overambitious, moi?


My tutor Sam shows off her rose


cut out petals

It all starts here


Making a rose

I like to think of this as the Mickey Mouse stage


half a rose

Nearly there


Finished sugar rose

Et voila! My finished creation


Birthday brownies for Duck – with recipe!

Brownies for Duck

I’ve made variations on these before, but I finally properly anglicised the recipe (originally the Katharine Hepburn brownies from the excellent Dorrie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours), and baked some for my housemate Duck’s birthday at the weekend. Yummy!

Brownies for Duck

  • 230g butter, cut into pieces
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp espresso powder
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 210g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g plain flour
  • 100g plain chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20cmx20cm tin with baking liner, or grease it well.

Gently melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Mix in the cocoa powder and espresso powder, stirring out any lumps. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract, then the eggs (beat them in a cup first), and then the flour. Hopefully it should all come together to make a smooth glossy (and delicious!) batter. Stir in the chopped chocolate and pour into the tin.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the surface looks papery. Leave to cool in the tin for at least a couple of hours before slicing into pieces and scoffing. Candle and out-of-tune rendition of “Happy Birthday” optional.

Later we went out to the totally brilliant Simmons bar near Kings Cross for drinks and dancing:


Tasty margaritas served in teacups - cute!

Old style sweets

Old-school sweeties for those midnight munchies

Recipe: White chocolate butterscotch brownies

White chocolate butterscotch brownies


I made these for the Sunday Driver gig at the Good Ship in Kilburn last weekend (more of that later), along with a batch of the now-legendary choc-chip-fudge cookies.

The original recipe came from work colleague who brought some of these into work a while ago. I pestered her so relentlessly for the recipe she finally gave in, and I thank her whole-heartedly for it.

I think I overcooked them slightly – they could have done with being a wee bit soggier in the middle, but it’s a super-simple method and they’re absolutely delicious. You could also replace the white chocolate chips with chopped nuts if you fancied it. Due to nut allergies in members of both my bands –  and the fact we’re just handing them out randomly at gigs –  I tend to avoid them completely when I bake.

White chocolate butterscotch brownies

  • 115g butter
  • 300g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (ideally at room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 210g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g white chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an 8 inch square pan with non-stick liner. Or just grease the hell out of it and take your chances.

Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. When melted, take off the heat and stir in the brown sugar until well-mixed.

Carefully stir in the flour, baking powder, eggs, salt and vanilla. I just chuck them all in (flour in first) and hope for the best.

Leave to cool for a few minutes then stir in the white chocolate chips.

Spread the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 30-40 mins until firm to the touch and dry on top. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into however many squares you like. I usually go for 16.

Stuff in your face. The middle ones are the best.

Recipe: Chocolate fudge cookies

Choc chip fudge cookies


Another week, another four gigs – and that means baking! I’ve gone off cupcakes a bit lately. It’s such a performance to make and ice them, and I’ve been really pushed for time.

I made another batch of choc chip cookies for the Shadow Orchestra gig on Tuesday (more of that later…), seeing as the ones I whipped up for our Favela Chic gig vanished in a matter of seconds.

This time I bunged in some mini fudge chunks that I spotted in Waitrose (God, I love that shop. I shall be in the poor house by Christmas). And they were so totally delicious I think I’ll probably do them again for Saturday’s gig at the Good Ship with Sunday Driver (we’re on at 9pm – come on down!)

Here’s the recipe, adapted and anglicised from Dorrie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.

  • 225g butter, at room temperature
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten in a cup
  • 320g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • Either 300-350g plain chocolate chips, or 250g choc chips plus 100g mini fudge chunks (from Waitrose)

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Beat the butter in a freestanding mixer for a few minutes (or you could do it by hand the hard way…), then cream in both the brown and caster sugar until very light and fluffy. This takes ages.

Briefly beat in the vanilla extract, then the beaten eggs, a little at a time.

Mix the bicarb and salt into the flour, then beat into the wet mixture in three batches. Son’t overmix – they just need to be combined.

Stir in the choc chips and fudge chunks, if using.

Line baking sheets with non-stick liner, or grease them really well. Put dollops of the mixture (roughly a dessert-spoonful) onto the baking sheets, spaced well apart. I get about 8 per sheet, which makes cookies that are roughly 2 and a half inches in diameter.

Cook until golden brown and more darkly browned at the edges – probably around 10-12 minutes but keep an eye on them.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven, wait a few minutes for the cookies to firm up, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool. Give out to hungry fans.

Makes 35-40 cookies.

Sunday Driver play the Forge in Camden

Sunday Driver had a great gig at the Forge in Camden on Friday, playing a set of mostly new songs to a packed house. Thanks to everyone who came down to see us – hope you enjoyed the music (and the cakes…)

Here are a few pics from the night – videos to follow.

Sunday driver at the forge - dinner

We love the Forge - they gave us dinner!

Sunday Driver Forge set list

The set list - in the end we switched Rats for Dreadful Night. Memo to self - must work on handwriting

Sunday Driver at the Forge - cakes

There were cakes - vanilla cupcakes filled with toffee fudge or chocolate sauce. Did you get one?

Sunday Driver at the Forge - Chandy

Insert your own caption here

Sunday Driver at the Forge - Joel

Joel invokes the spirit of Crocodile Dundee through his choice of headgear

Sunday Driver at the Forge - band

Clearly drummer Scott's the most important person in the band, judging by where the spotlight ended up

Sunday Driver at the Forge - waving

"What do you think of my new deodorant?"

If you were there and took any better pics – which wouldn’t be hard, to be honest – please share ’em…

Cross-posted from Escaping the City of Dreadful Night

Part of the big picture – a jigsaw puzzle birthday cake for Dad

I don’t tend to make cakes on request – for a start, I’m wary of over-promising and then running out of time. But when I got this email from my mum, I couldn’t resist:

“I asked your father what he wanted for his birthday dinner today and he said a crossword piece shaped cake.”

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, establishing that he actually wanted a jigsaw piece-shaped cake and not a crossword cake (he’s a big fan of both types of puzzle), I set to work.

I picked a chocolate cake recipe from my rather battered and batter-smeared copy of The Complete Book of Baking, multiplying it by half and throwing in a tub of Waitrose “Cooks’ Ingredients” fudge chunks for good measure (recipe at the bottom of this post) and baked it in a square tin.

Cake batter


It made a dense, fudgey cake that smelled amazing while it was baking. Next came the butchery. I cut two notches out of the sides, using the pieces for the ‘knobs’ on the sides:

Jigsaw cake base

I then put on a crumb coat of vanilla buttercream, making a right bloody mess in the process. Handy hint: I assembled the caked on a 12 inch record shipping sleeve covered in tin foil as an improvised cake board. To save it from getting absolutely covered in buttercream, I slipped strips of baking paper around the edges:

Jigsaw cake buttercream

Finally, the sugarpaste. My Dad loves jigsaw puzzles – the more difficult the better – so I decided to make a piece of sky.

I coloured most of a box of sugarpaste sky blue, using food colouring paste, and rolled it out to cover the cake. It was pretty difficult to get the paste to fit neatly in the notches, and if you look closely you’ll see it’s a right dog’s dinner in there.  In retrospect, I should have taken a bit more time and effort to mould it carefully into the spaces.

I cut out clouds with the remaining white sugarpaste and attached them into place with a bit of water. Et voila!

Finished jigsaw cake

Don't look too closely...

Following an adventurous journey involving two buses, a train, a rainstorm and a domestic argument, I made it home to my parents’ house with the cake intact. Happy birthday, Dad!

Dad birthday cake

Happy birthday, Dad!

Chocolate jigsaw fudge cake

Makes one rather hefty 8 to 9 inch square cake. Ingredients should all be at room temperature before you start.

  • 135g plain chocolate
  • 90 ml (6 tablespoons) runny honey
  • 180g butter
  • 135g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225ml milk
  • 1 tub Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients fudge chunks

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F, gas mark 4). Grease and line your tin of choice with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate and honey together, either using a double-boiler or the microwave (gently!)

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the choc/honey mixture, then the eggs.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Stir in a third of this to the main wet mix, alternating with a third of the milk (with the vanilla extract added to it). Stir in the fudge chunks.

Flop the batter into the tin. Level the top and bake for about 45 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Heave it out carefully onto a rack to cool. Mine rose dramatically and cracked everywhere, but settled down to a lovely dense, moist, fudgey cake after cooling. The fudge pieces melted into the cake, leaving some rather strange air pockets but making it really delicious in the process.