Sunday, 18 March 2012


My wonderful mother, known to you all as the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma), passed away yesterday following a short illness.

I’m taking a little break from blogging while my family and I try to recover from this most awful of events. I can’t even begin to imagine how the world can ever seem the same again.

Hope to be back soon.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Portuguese custard tarts

I have wanted to make these for so long – probably dating back to before I started my blog in 2007! What took me so long? I can’t honestly say...but they were worth the wait!

The method for lining the pastry cases is unusual in that you roll the puff pastry up (swiss roll style), cut discs and then roll them out. Here are the three stages:

I have never been able to find an explanation as to why this is the traditional method – if anyone knows the reason then please share your knowledge! (NB. Having now made them, I think it might be so that the pastry rises like a cylinder to keep the custard contained, rather than the usual pillowy way puff rises)

This photo (above) shows how many layers of frilly puff pastry you get – it looks rather pretty!

The custard part of the recipe is more involved than a normal custard, but seeing as I didn’t make the pastry it seems almost churlish to complain (the only two pastries I will buy readymade are puff and filo).

The unusual part of the custard recipe is that it uses whipped egg whites as well as the yolk. I found this impossible to fold in to the liquid milky mixture and used my kitchenaid as it was the only way – this meant I ended up with frothy custard! Probably, this was why I couldn’t use all the custard in my pastry cases, so I ladled the leftovers into two bowls and baked them separately. Waste not want not!

It is lucky that this recipe made 24 tarts, because they are extremely addictive. Best eaten slightly warm so the custard retains some squidge; I could eat more of these than I’m happy to admit! One final comment; these don’t keep well (they need refrigerating and the pastry loses its crispness) so you’ll need to eat them on the day of baking...oh, the hardship!

Finally, I’d like to introduce my new kitchen assistant, Alfredo “Al” Dente. Here he is selecting the custard tart he wants!


600g puff pastry (I used 2 packs of pre-rolled, all butter puff pastry which amounted to just over 700g)
250g caster sugar
100ml water
1 tablespoon plain flour
500ml milk
6 egg yolks
2 egg whites
icing sugar and cinnamon to finish


If you have a block of puff pastry roll it out into a rectangle; mine was pre-rolled.

Roll it up along the long edge into a tight swiss roll shape.

Take the other sheet of pastry and continue rolling the same swiss roll i.e. so you end up with one, really fat roll of pastry.

Chill for 10 minutes.

Cut into 24 equal pieces and roll out a little flatter until they fill your cupcake pans or foil pie tins. The pastry will get sticky with handling so dust it with some plain flour.

Place in the fridge while you make the filling.

Mix the sugar and water and heat gently in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes – do this over a gentle heat so the sugar does not colour.

Place the flour and milk in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, whisking now and then to ensure the flour is not lumpy.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar syrup. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C/ 425°F/ gas mark 7.

When the milk mixture is cool whisk in the egg yolks

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites to firm peaks and then fold into the milk mixture. ( I couldn’t achieve this with a metal spoon so resorted to my kitchenaid – my custard went frothy – thinking about it, I think I should have sieved it to lessen the froth!)

Remove the pastry cases from the fridge and fill them with the custard.

Place any leftover custard in small oven proof bowls and bake after the custard tarts.

Bake the tarts for approximately 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the custard is turning dark brown in patches on the top.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle with icing sugar or cinnamon and eat slightly warm.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cake balls, four ways

I have resisted the phenomenon that is cake pops because I can never get past the line in the method that instructs you to break the cake into crumbs. I wouldn’t need buttercream to bind the crumbs; my tears (caused by such wanton vandalism) would do the job. But I have to admit I do like the look of them, the size of them and their versatility.

Enter Lakeland with their cake ball machine
. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a plug in counter-top machine that bakes small amounts of sponge mix into balls in less than 5 minutes. Impressive, non? And you get all the joy of a cake ball without having to desecrate the sponge.

I found that lifting the balls out was easy if you used two cocktail sticks; they are small enough so as not to tear the sponge:

For my first dalliance with this machine I kept it simple. All the cake balls are made from the same tried-and-tested vanilla cupcake sponge recipe
. Some I rolled in jam and coconut for a classic English Madeleine:

When I rolled the balls in the hot jam I just had to photograph them as they looked so beautiful – almost like plums:

Others were rolled in chocolate ganache
and chopped nuts:

As you can see, the sponge is a lovely texture; I was really impressed with this little machine:

For the citrus lovers amongst my eatership I rolled the sponge in lemon drizzle mix
so that the whole ball was covered in the thin crusty glaze (it pains me to say it, but these were voted the favourites on the day – even by only casual lemon-eaters):

And finally, so no one had any grumbles, I cut some in half and sandwiched them with peanut butter cheesecake

Serving them in mini cupcake cases gave the air of a box of truffles – a really cute look with no need for any decorating skills at all:

Ingredients and method

Obviously, the quantities will vary depending how many cake balls you wish to make. Here are the basic quantities that you can scale up or down based on your needs.

For the cupcake sponge (this will make 12 normal sized cupcakes or 32 cake balls):
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
1 tablespoon milk

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla

Beat in the eggs, flour, and milk.

When the mixture is smooth and well combined, spoon teaspoonfuls of batter into the oiled (I used Dr Oetker cake release spray and – contrary to the cake ball maker’s instructions found that I didn’t need to reapply) cake ball maker. It’s important to work quickly and cleanly – if you drip batter anywhere other than the holes you will find you don’t get nice clean cake balls.

Bake for 4 minutes or until the balls are firm. Mine took exactly 4 minutes and the easiest way I found to remove them from the machine was to spear them lightly with 2 cocktail sticks and lift them out.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

When they are cool, gently pick off any surplus batter that makes them look like Saturn with its rings!

Now the fun bit – decorating!

For the Madeleine version (enough for 16 balls):
Heat some jam (I used almost a whole jar of raspberry) and roll the balls in it.

Roll in a approx 100g of desiccated coconut.

For the chocolate ganache (enough for 16 balls):
125g dark chocolate – I used half dark, half milk
150ml double cream
100g chopped nuts

Place the chocolate, broken into chunks, in a heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream to boiling point, then immediately pour over the chocolate.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir until it is smooth and well combined.

Leave to cool and firm up before rolling the balls in it.

Roll the balls in chopped nuts.

For the lemon drizzle (enough for 16 balls):
2 lemons – zest and juice
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Icing sugar – enough to make a runny icing; the quantity required will depend on the juiciness of your lemon!

Place the lemon zest, juice and caster sugar in a bowl and beat in enough icing sugar to make a thin, extremely runny icing. (The reason for using caster as well as icing sugar is that the caster won’t sink into the cake and leaves a lovely light sugar crust on the top of the cake).

Pierce the cake balls all over – I used a cocktail stick for this.

Sit the balls in the glaze and leave them to absorb the lemon for 5 minutes or so.

Use a fork to lift the balls out and let the excess glaze run off.

For the cheesecake (easily enough for 32 balls – I only used it for 16 and spread the rest on digestive biscuits as a tasty treat!):
150g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia

25g icing sugar
70ml double cream
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter and add more to taste

Beat together all the ingredients except for the peanut butter.

When you have a smooth consistency spoon beat in the peanut butter.

Cut the cake ball in half and spoon or pipe a ring of cheesecake around one flat surface.

Press together with the other sponge half.

Refrigerate until you wish to serve.

Serve in small paper cases or on sticks.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Double chocolate, fudge and oat biscuits

Back in January I made w
hite chocolate, cranberry and oatmeal biscuits and very nice they were too - sort of cakey but still biscuity! Therefore, when I was looking for another quick biscuit recipe I adapted this point reinventing the wheel.

I replaced the white chocolate with milk chocolate, and the cranberries for fudge chunks. Switching some of the flour for cocoa powder gave a dominant chocolate flavour to the biscuit. The oats added crunch and texture but weren’t as noticeable as in the original version.

They keep like a dream for days on end (and I’m not even lying – I have been restrained in my consumption!) and the texture doesn’t change at all. I loved the way the fudge oozed a little round the edges and crisped up where it hit the baking sheet into almost a crunchy toffee.


150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g light brown sugar
2 eggs
100g milk chocolate chips
85g fudge chunks
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
120g porridge oats
170g plain flour
30g cocoa powder


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Line three baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and airy – as it’s brown sugar the mix will not whip as light as if caster sugar, but it will turn noticeably paler.

Beat in the eggs gradually.

Stir in the chocolate chips and fudge pieces.

Stir in the bicarb, oats, flour and cocoa powder.

Place rounded teaspoons of mix on the baking sheet leaving approximately 2-3cm between biscuits as they spread as they bake.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden. I checked them after 10 minutes and turned the tray for the remaining baking time.

Leave to cool on the baking sheets as they are very soft when warm.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.