Archive for the ‘First timers’ Category

Parental request cake #2: Pear and Cardamom Cake


I try and avoid baking just for myself and the OH, because my already precarious waist-line would inevitably suffer even further. So when I went home over the weekend I took some of the two varieties of Cucumber Cake that I had previously made. Although it was agreed that the cakes were maybe no the first choice of flavour they would go for, there were still a lot of positive remarks. I’ve become rather keen on the basic cake mix for the Cucumber Cake in my last post. The concept might be something of an acquired taste, but the texture and moistness were pretty perfect!

And so there came a Parental cake request, this time from Mum: a Pear and Cardamom Cake. And I was delighted to see if it would work. And it did – rather well! The process was exactly the same as with the Cucumber Cake, but replace the cucumber with the same quantity of grated pear (preferably still quite firm) and add the crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods. Simple!  I would probably go further and add a couple of tablespoons of a pear liqueur just to bring out the flavour.

And I’m quite proud of the picture to go with it this time; thank goodness for sunny gardens for a bit of set-dressing!

So I think I might stick with variations on this recipe for another bake (as a treat for work colleagues) – I’m thinking perhaps an Apple and Elderflower Cake. After that I think I’m going to have to move on to something new – maybe biscuits or traybake.

Also, while I remember, I have signed up to Foodie Penpals this month – and I’m really quite excited about the package of goodies winging it’s way to me as I type 😀 I’m planning to get my package together over the weekend to send on to my penpal – a mix of healthy and naughty goodies has been planned and I’m quite looking forward to getting it all together!


Ardbeg Whisky and Chocolate Cake; A grown-up dessert!


Last time I was home Dad handed me some Ardbeg whisky and asked me to make something with it as he found it a bit heavy for drinking. Understandable as this is something of a ‘heavy hitter’ on the peaty/smokey front!

I am not a whisky drinker, so I’ll admit that this was something of a challenge for me. I did a bit of research, looking at the tasting notes for this whisky. One that stood out as ideal was bitter-sweet chocolate (i.e. 70%ish). Given the complexity of the whisky I wanted to keep the other flavours as simple as possible! One thought I had (which I mentioned in a previous post) was using tobacco chocolate ( but I suspect that given how smokey the whisky was itself it would be pointless adding more to this, but I think it would work beautifully with a lighter whisky.

So what I ended up with was a dense dessert-cake which is a total treat for those who like their dessert rich but not sickly sweet. With this in mind, I’d be inclined to serve it with poring cream to lighten it slightly, and give it a bit of a sweet contrast.

The photo is a little bit of a white-lie: I didn’t have any whisky left so I hauled out a bottle of my home-made orange and cardamom rum (which I happened to have stored in a whisky bottle). Thinking about it, this is something which would also work very well as an alternative to whisky in this cake.

The recipe comes from:

Ardbeg Whisky and Chocolate Cake (recipe says it serves 6, but this will do much more as it’s so rich!)

1/2 cup peaty whisky
2 tbsps peaty whisky
6 ozs bittersweet chocolate (chopped 70% cocoa)
2 tsps espresso powder (instant, dissolved in 6 tablespoons hot water)
1/3 cup ground almond (lightly toasted about 2 ounces)
6 tbsps plain flour (divided)
4 cup unsalted butter(room temperature divided)

7 tbsps caster sugar (divided)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs (separated)
1 pinch fine sea salt
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F Butter and flour 8-inch-diameter spring form pan.
Boil 1/2 cup whisky in small saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Combine bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder mixture, and 1/4 cup boiled whisky in small metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Mix ground almonds with 2 tablespoons flour in a separate bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and 6 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks 1 at a time, then sea salt. Fold in chocolate mixture, add vanilla essence, then ground almond mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 tablespoon sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into batter alternately with remaining 4 tablespoons flour in 3 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 30 minutes. Remove pan sides and cool cake completely.
Combine semisweet chocolate and remaining 2 tablespoons whisky in small metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add remaining 1/4 cup butter to chocolate mixture, 1 small piece at a time, whisking until each piece is melted before adding next. Place bowl over larger bowl of ice water. Using electric mixer, beat icing until thickened to spreadable consistency, about 1 minute. Spread icing over top and sides of cake.

I didn’t add the icing at the end as I felt the cake was probably rich enough as it was, so I simple dredged it with icing sugar. Here’s hoping a) Dad doesn’t mind that I taste-tested it, and b) he likes it!

Bank holidays, Rosehips and Tobacco: Planning!

Well, I hope everyone is having a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, and have managed to avoid the miserable weather! It has been peeing it down all day here, so the OH and I have sorted out the DVDs and CDs at last – not the most productive use of time, but frankly neither of us care :-p

So, plans for future creations. When I was last visiting the family I told them about the blog and various experiments I’ve been trying. The Earl Grey and Orange Maderia Cake went down very well indeed, and I was asked to make another for a bake sale, along with some of the Pfefferneuse. In the interests of science, Dad produced a bottle of Ardbeg whisky and asked me to make a cake using some of it. If you don’t know Scottish whiskys, Ardbeg is very smoky/peaty, and Dad just finds it a little on the heavy side for drinking. Not being a whisky drinker myself I don’t know a lot about them, but just from the nose on it you can tell that this is a very rich tipple with a lot of complex tones to it.

I was at a bit of a lose as to what to do with it, but I found a recipe for a whisky and chocolate cake which sounds pretty good. But, of course, I couldn’t do anything the straight forward way, could I… Near us is a fab independent chocolate shop (Coco of Bruntsfield, Edinburgh), and when in there buying a gift for a friend recently, I noticed they had chocolate flavoured with tobacco! So, Tobacco Chocolate and Whisky cake is on the cards; I’m hoping the sweetness of the chocolate will lighten the peaty whiskey, and the smoky flavours from the tobacco chocolate will marry up pleasantly with the whisky. I will report back results (and tasting notes from Dad) soon!

My other plan for the near future may involve me having to learn to decorate, possibly using an icing bag *sigh*. I’m not a fan of doing complicated icing myself (because it ALWAYS goes wrong) but I think this is a recipe that may well demand to be pretty. I’ve mentioned previously that I make yoghurt cakes reasonably regularly, and am trying to branch out, but I think that Lime Yoghurt Cupcakes with Rosehip Buttercream Icing might well be a good reason to go back to a classic base recipe. I keep meaning to make my own rosehip syrup, but always forget until it’s too late. However, Lakeland currently have bottles of the stuff available, which will allow me to have a go at using it until I actually get around to making my own. If you’ve ever used it, you’ll know that Rosehip Syrup is super sweet, and I think it would be best contrasted with something quite fresh and sharp to lift it, hence the lime. The other option would be to flavour the cake with the rosehip and do a lime icing, but that may have to be a water icing rather than buttercream. I may even do both, just to see what happens!

Anyway, those are my thoughts at the moment – will report back soon 🙂

Seasonally dysfunctional Baking

Warning: if you prefer your cooking to be seasonally appropriate, then this probably isn’t the post for you (come back in December!). But if you like heavily spiced biscuits at any time of the year, not just Christmas, then you’re ok – read on.

I’m off home to see the family this weekend – my maternal Aunts are visiting (one from London, the other from South Africa) so I thought I’d take a load of biscuits home for afternoon tea with my grandparents. Unfortunately the new job finishes later in the day than my old one, and combined with the bus journey home and any necessary shopping, I end up with little baking time in the evening – especially if I’ve failed to plan ahead. Fortunately, this recipe was actually a store-cupboard wonder and I didn’t need to buy too much specially.

German Pepper Nut Cookies


This is adapted from an American recipe, but I’ve translated quantities into metric.

325g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp crushed aniseed

1tsp cinamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground clove

115g unsalted butter, softened

150g cup light brown sugar

85g cup treacle

1 egg

Icing sugar

1.Sift flour, and add the salt, pepper, spices and baking powder. Mix.

2. Mix together the butter, brown sugar and treacle until light and airy.

3. Add egg to the treacle mix and blend in.

4. Mix flour into the treacle mixture until doughy. This will be quite loose in consistency. Wrap in cling film and chill for a couple of hours.

5. Preheat oven to 180 celcius/350 farenheit.

6. Grease a couple of baking sheets. Divide the dough into 24 balls (these will be quite large) and flatten slightly onto the baking sheets

7. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes – biscuits should be firm on top, but not hard.

8. Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks for a couple of minutes.

9. At this point you can dredge the biscuits with icing sugar, or put a glaze on them, depending what you want. As in the photo, I did half and half for the pretty 🙂

I think I will probably make these again come Christmas time, perhaps putting a bit of marzipan in each, and dipping with chocolate!

The OH’s friends liked these biscuits, and I even got a hand-shake out of it, so I figure they quite liked these.

(Hot Cross) Buns of steel

A am theyuppiebaker, and I’m going to go against the historic stereotype of the ambitious feminist female young professional by admitting that I love baking. I find it quite therapeutic, and a way to be creative without having to invest too much time or energy unless I want to do something particularly special. I love food, I love being creative with food, but ultimately it’s for eating. How aesthetic I want it to be will depend who I’m cooking for.

To be frank, I’m not sure that historic stereotype is relevant any more. In our post-Nigella world, where women have been given ‘permission’ to re-approach cooking/baking without it being assumed that they aspire only to 1950’s house-wifery, it might even be expected that the young professional female should also be a master baker. We should be able to bake beautiful and delicate creations, have a high powered job, as well as remain slim, young, run kilomarathons, have unassilable taste in dress and interior decoration, have a PhD, hand write witty individual letters to all our friends and family, read only the most worthy literature and watch only independent cinema, and have plenty of time left over the maintain a spotless home, and do plenty of fund raising for charity. Right. No pressure then.

I’m not a complete slouch on all of these fronts, but I am not going to run myself ragged to meet standards which may well only exist in my head. If I can do some of the above, and make food that tastes pretty good, then it’s all good.

So my first post is today’s efforts: Hot Cross Buns (ironic for an Atheist, no?)

I used Delia’s recipe from the Complete Cooking Course (also at:

I did two batches, although I hadn’t actually intended to!

Batch #1: Oops! Dried yeast didn’t work terribly well! But in spite of this they taste ok, if a bit denser than ideal. I also forgot to add the cross, so I’ve decided that these are Spring Holiday Rock Cakes and not just failed Hot Cross Buns!


Batch #2: Better! I used fresh yeast, but still not quite how I would like – however, at least I remembered the decorative bit. They’re quite pale in spite of being completely cooked, so that’s something I need to work on.


Conclusions: I’ve never worked well with yeast, and although the second batch showed improvement I can conclude that I have a very long way to go. Ideally I’d like to be able to make brioche, so will aim to work up to this. But in the mean time, what I might do in the future to solve the issue of paleness is glaze the bun with egg (perhaps with some treacle in it) then add the cross on top.

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