Archive for August, 2012

Foodie Penpals #3: M.I.A


Rather saddened to have to report that my 3rd Foodie Penpal package was a no-show 😦 Boo.

But what irks me slightly is the lack of communication from my penpal – either to say she’s dispatched it, or not and why. There may well be good reasons, but I can’t help the feeling of childish disappointment.

Oh well. Never mind. I’m glad to report that Anna and Robert safely recieved my package, and it sounds like they enjoyed it 🙂


Guest post: Handbags at Dawn (Yes, it’s a cake, I promise)!

Today’s guest post comes from my wonderful, and frustratingly talented friend, Maya. I saw this picture pop up on her Facebook feed a little while back, and I had to do a serious double-take: that’s a cake?! Seriously?! Aparently quite a few of her colleagues had much the same moment of sheer confusion as I did. So thanks, Maya, for taking the time to write up how you created this masterpiece! Now over to the lady herself:

Kelly asked me to write a guest blogspot about the cake I made for the OH’s sisters 21s birthday, so here goes.

I’ve only been making occasion cakes since last July and I am completely self taught. I use cake decorating books for tips and ideas and my own imagination to come up with a design. Having tried my hand at a number of cakes I decided that I really wanted to make a handbag cake for the OH’s sister, I’d seen several online and thought wow they look amazing.

 Handbag cake


 You will need:

The first thing I would say is find your nearest professional cake supply shop, they’re invaluable for the equipment and quality you can get plus their knowledge. Failing that there are a lot of good online suppliers and the other place to try is ebay, most cake tools and such you can get on there, often cheaper than the shops but do your homework.

  • 10 inch square cake tin & 12 inch square board
  • Dresden tool (or use the handle of a rounded teaspoon) quilting tool (or cocktail stick. More time consuming)
  • Paintbrush
  • Oval cutters and round cutters (a variety of sizes)
  • Large sharp knife, smaller sharp knife
  • Templates – I used the ones in a book or you can take a picture front back and sides of a bag and use them just make sure they’re straight)
  • Toothpicks
  • Tylose powder (equivalents are CMC or gum tragycinth – helps ‘set’ icing)
  • Leaf glaze
  • Rolling pin (silicone are best)
  • Baking paper
  • Baking tray/board to carve cake on
  • Silver lustre dust (be careful to buy an edible one)
  • Strong edible glue
  • Icing smoother
  • 1.5kg sugarpaste (icing) of your desired colour (in my case hot pink)
  • 500g sugarpaste of a complimentary colour if you choose for the flowers
  • 750g-1kg sugarpaste of desired colour
  • 1 batch buttercream – easy to make, plenty of recipes online or can be shop bought but much sweeter.
  • Madeira cake – can find recipes online


To make in advance (day before icing) – modelling paste and pastiche (sugar paste)

 The cake

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos of the making it stage as the blog idea came about after the fact. But the making of the cake and shaping it is pretty straightforward.

I used a 10 inch square cake tin, with vanilla flavoured Madeira cake as it makes a dense cake that’s easy to carve. It takes a while in the oven so make sure to tie a double layer of baking paper round the outside of the tin and cover the cake top once it’s browned to save it burning.

Once cooked and cooled turn it out, cut it in half and stack the halves on top of each other on a board/flat baking tray covered in baking paper).

Use cocktail sticks to pin the front and back template to the cake, taking the large sharp knife carve the cake to match the shape using long steady strokes. For any fine touching up once the shape is almost done use the small knife.

Next carve the side profile, attach the template as above. To form the top of the bag where the zip runs use the template to find the centre line and cut down into the cake 1.5cm either side of the centre to about 2cm depth, then cut in horizontally to remove either side, leaving you with a central ridge.

Now you should have a shape that resembles a bag. Before covering in buttercream and icing cut out a teardrop/triangle shape from the sides (from near the top down to the halfway point). This is so the icing drapes into the gap left to give a more realistic shape.

 Buttercream the front of the cake.

For the pleats I rolled out some of the sugarpaste into sausages and cut into 5 1 inch long sections which I then pressed onto the front of the cake leaving enough room in between (about 0.5cm) to press in the icing later.

Roll out enough sugarpaste to cover the front to approx 4-5mm thick and press gently on. Using the Dresden tool, the finer end, gently press the icing into the gaps between the sausages until it looks like pleating

Buttercream the back and ice (no pleats needed). Now buttercream and ice the sides making sure all the edges meet and that the icing drapes into the cut out sections. Smooth up the joins in the icing slightly and try and create a slight groove with the Dresden tool along the joins for the edging to sit in.

See picture 1

I used an extra curved section of icing above the pleats and used the quilting tool along the edges to make it look like stitching (see picture 1). The same section can be found on the back too. It works well as it supports where the handles will sit.


Picture 1 – cake has been carved and covered in buttercream and fondant icing. The icing has been pressed around the ‘sausages’ to resemble pleats.

Edging –I just rolled the modelling paste into long thin sausages, thick enough to cover the joins in the icing and cut them to size. Apply the edible glue to the area and gently press on edging, press together at the top where the edging from the other side meets.

See picture 2

Now you’re ready to make the handle rings using the pastiche made the day before.

I rolled it into sausages as with the edging and wrapped it round a small circular cutter, gluing the edges together to make a ring. Leave it to set completely before tapping out some silver lustre dust onto a plate and mixing in some leaf glaze and painting this on. Leave to dry.

See picture 4

Roll out some modelling paste to 4mm thickness and cut out 4 thin strips (thin enough to loop through the rings you just made). Wrap through the ring and glue the edges together and then glue onto the top edge of the curved section added earlier. Repeat for the remaining rings and strips. Leave to dry.

See picture 4

I moved the cake onto the cake board (covered and stencilled in advance, stencilling is also done using the lustre dust) at this point to avoid catching the flowers and handles.


Now for the flowers, they can be as fancy or simple as you like/are able to do.

Round flower – Using a round cutter cut out 8 circles, fold each in half and stack on top of each other using the edible glue, then open each one up fairly evenly until it forms a circle and glue the edges together. You can run the quilting tool down the middle of each petal to make it look like fabric. I only used one size but you could do a mix by using a larger cutter.

See picture 2


 Picture 2 – Close up of the round flower. You can also see the edging that covers the joins in the icing.

Oval flower – cut out 6 small ovals using a cutter, these are the petals. Taking each petal between thumb and first finger gently squeeze up the edges and at the same time use the first finger on your other hand to push the middle up and in slightly so that when you pinch it closed it looks like 2 petals (might be easier to understand once you look at the photo). Once each petal is made glue them all together, if they’re not holding well don’t worry too much as once you glue on the ball of icing to the middle it should hold it all together.

See picture 3


Picture 3 – close up of oval flower

 When you first make the flowers they will be soft and pliable so it’s best to leave them for 10 minutes to firm up before you start placing them on the cake. I also added some waves between the gaps in the flowers, these are just thin strips of icing folded up and stuck on.


To make the handles roll out the remaining modelling paste into thick sausages, you need to make them slightly longer than you actually want as you will flatten the ends using a rolling pin in order to wrap them round the rings. It may need a touch of glue here and there for support (especially on the back as there are no flowers to support it, in my case I glued the entire handle on).

See picture 4


Picture 4 – close up of pastiche rings, modelling paste loops and handle

The zip detail is actually very easy and makes it look. Buy a zip (try a habadashery store/John Lewis etc), make sure it’s clean and then press a thin strip of modelling paste long enough for the top of the bag (about 0.5-1cm wide) onto it and gently rub your fingers up and down. When you peel it off you should have a zip imprint and now all you need to do is glue it onto the top of the cake and paint it as you did the rings (you can add a little charm if you wish).

See picture 5, 6 and 7




Pictures 5, 6 & 7 – Close up of the zip and charm and also the side of the cake so you can see how it drapes in to the section of cake that was cut out earlier.


And voila you have yourself a pretty bag cake.

And incredibly impressive cake, I’m sure you’ll all agree! Thanks again to Maya, and hopefully she’ll agree to write up another of her spectacular creations as a guest post again in the future 🙂

Stress-free dinner-party pudding deluxe!: Greengage Frangipan Tart


(Sorry this isn’t actually a picture of the whole tart – by the time I remembered to take a photo, one and half tarts had disappeared! Also, my wine intake over the course of the evening may have impacted on the quality of the photo…)


(How it should look! Photographs: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer)

Recently the OH and I had the pleasure of inviting my ex-flatmates and their respective partners over for dinner at our relatively-new flat. It was a wonderful evening and totally relaxed. And at least part of that was down to the pudding having been taken care of with minimal fuss.

Our local fruit and veg market has some fab deals on seasonal produce, and so I ended up with 1kg of greengages for £2! Bargain! (I do like a bargain…) So it seemed logical to use them in a pudding for the dinner party. If you’ve never had greengages they are a green (duh) plum-like fruit, with a slightly sharper and fresher flavour. You could use a wide range of fruits if you can’t get greengages: pears, plums, or peaches would work as well (anything that goes with almonds, really!)

Nigel Slater supplied the following recipe, and I supplied the cheat 🙂

Greengage frangipan tart

SERVES 8 (Honestly, you can get 12 out of this as it’s quite rich)

For the pastry: (or CHEAT by buying pre-made pastry cases – I used 2 small ones)
flour 200g
butter 100g
egg yolk 1
water a little

For the filling:
butter 100g
caster sugar 125g
eggs 2
ground almonds 125g
plain flour 60g
greengages or small plums 400g

You will also need: 
a round 22cm tart tin at least 3.5cm deep with a removable base
beans for baking blind

Put the flour and butter, cut into small pieces, into the bowl of a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and blitz to fine breadcrumbs. If you prefer, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Add the egg yolk and enough water to bring the dough to a firm ball. The less you add the better, as too much will cause your pastry case to shrink in the oven.

Pat the pastry into a flat round on a floured surface, then roll out large enough to line the tart tin. Lightly butter the tin, dust it with a small amount of flour, shake off any surplus then lower in the round of pastry. Push the dough right into the corner where the rim joins the base without stretching the pastry. Make certain there are no holes or tears. Trim the overhanging pastry and place in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Put a baking sheet in the oven to warm. Line the pastry case with kitchen foil or baking parchment and baking beans and slide on to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully lift the beans out. Return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes or so, until the surface is dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 160C/gas mark 3, and return the baking sheet to the oven.

(If cheating then all you need to do is put the filling into the tart case and bake – great if you’re pushed for time but still want something a bit more complicated than fruit salad and a scoop of icecream)

To make the filling, using a food mixer cream the butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy. Lower the speed, then mix in the eggs and then slowly fold in the ground almonds and flour. Spoon the almond filling into the cooked pastry case, smoothing it lightly with the back of the spoon.

Cut the greengages or plums in half and remove their stones. Place the greengages or plums on top of the almond filling, neatly or randomly as the mood takes you. Slide the tart on to the hot baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes till the filling is well risen and golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

I sprinkled mine with toasted almonds for a contrast of texture and as a finishing touch.

The accidental Baked Lemon Cheesecake that took over down-town Tokyo!



So last weekend the OH had a go at making creamcheese. It would be fair to say that the first attempt, although it tasted like cheese, didn’t really set like cheese. Basicly, this cheese would have made a swift dash for freedom at any angle off the horizontal! So I adopted it, in the interests of avoiding food waste, and in the interests of having a go at making a baked cheesecake -something I’ve never tried making before.

But of course, it couldn’t be as simple as all that – oh no – this creamcheese was made with goats milk. If you’ve never tried goats milk, it has a rather pungent aroma and taste, and many people find it a bit off-putting. I quite like it, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in a dessert. Quite well is the answer!

I used a recipe from, and increased the quantities by half. But I ended up with too much filling!* So I’d multiply the biscuit base mix by a half again, but leave the filling the same.

Baked Lemon (Goats)Cheesecake

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 250g plain sweet biscuits (I used digestives)
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 500g cream cheese, softened (I didn’t need to worry about the softening bit!)
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Icing sugar mixture and double cream, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm round springform pan. Process biscuits until finely chopped. Add butter. Process until combined. Press mixture over base and side of prepared pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon rind together until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Add lemon juice. Beat for 1 minute. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

  3. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until filling is just set (mixture may wobble slightly in centre, but will firm on standing). Cool in oven with door slightly ajar. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until cold. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

    So we ended up with this absolutely enormous cheesecake, and no idea what to do with all of it. Fortunately between several friends and work colleagues we were able to dispose of it all 🙂 And on Friday morning, the Financial Controller came up to my desk and said: “There appears to have been a mistake: there’s no cheesecake in the kitchen today!” No, not today, Sharon, sorry. So I think we can rate that one as a bit of a hit!

    *So what to do with all the blooming left-over cheesecake filling? In this case, I mixed in 100ml of a home-made Orange and Chilli Liqueur given to us as a wedding favour by friends, heated it gently in a pan until it simmered very lightly. Poured it into a tub, let it cool completely, then shove it in the freezer. Presto! – sort-of-icecream! And very nice it was too 🙂

Mrs Beeton’s Old Fashioned British Macaroons


None of your fancy pastel coloured bite-sized morsels here – oh no. These are good old fashioned tea-time treats like your Grandma would have made.

Almond Macaroons (16 – 20)

2 egg whites

150g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

10ml ground rice

almond halfs/apricot kernels

  1. Grease two baking sheets, or cover with two silicon sheets. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees c.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Stir in the sugar, ground almonds and ground rice. Beat with a wooden spoon until thick and white.
  3. Put small spoonfuls of the mixture 5cm apart on the prepared baking sheets. Place a split almond on each (I used apricot kernels) and bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly on the tray, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Waste not, want not; stale cake + oven = pseudo-biscotti!


In my recent Shearing Cake post I noted that the cake was a bit dry – and so I didn’t take it into work, in the end. And unfortunately the OH doesn’t like Caraway, so that disposal method was closed to me.

But I honestly hate food waste, and there was no way I was going to let 3/4 of a large cake go to waste. And so Mrs Beeton came to my rescue again with a handy tip: stale cake can very easily be turned into rusks/biscuits/biscotti/cake-cookies – or whatever you’d prefer to call them.

All I did was cut the cake into slices, and then again along the horizontal plain so they look a bit like fingers. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees, put the cake slices onto a baking tray and bake for about 45 minutes – or until the slices are golden and firm. Then leave to cool on a wire rack. You end up with a crunchy biscuity goodness that’s rather like biscotti.

You can use any relatively plain cake (i.e. no cream centre or icing!) such as lemon drizzle cake, madeira cake, ginger bread, un-iced carrot cake etc etc

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