Sunday, 24 February 2013


I’m really enjoying BBC2’s revival of the ‘Food and Drink’ show.  I know it’s been criticised for being cosy and twee but I don’t mind a bit of cosy and twee, and I’m always willing to listen to any cookery advice Michel Roux Jr wishes to offer!

As soon as Michel started making French Madeleine I sat back and waited for Mr CC to suggest that I should make them.  It didn’t take long.  Mr CC has a food vocabulary only rivalled by the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) for making a compliment sound like an insult.  Hence, when he said I should make these as they would have more crust, and the crust was always his favourite bit of any sponge I made, I didn’t take offence.

I didn’t anticipate how buttery these little cakes would be – they are utter indulgence!  The golden sponge bakes quickly and acquires a thin crispness around the edge of the shell shape that adds to the texture.  I was very proud to get the little bump in baking (Michel called them a nipple but that’s a little too French for me, so I’ve opted for bump!)

This could be a ‘oh, just me then’ moment but you know sometimes you bake something...and it’s cooling on the rack...and you try it...then another one...and you find yourself thinking, “I hope everyone gets here soon or there’ll be none left”?  This is one of those bakes!

The hardship of this recipe is that the cakes are best eaten within an hour of baking, or at least the same day.  I thought Michel Roux Jr was perhaps being a little cheffy and precious about the ‘eat within an hour’ bit but it is actually true – when they’ve fully cooled they lose their crisp shell/soft sponge contrast.  I had a couple left and they were still nice the next day – just not as fluffy and light.


100g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool
 2 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract – OR – juice and zest of a lemon
¾ teaspoon baking powder


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Grease two Madeleine pans (the recipe will make between 12 and 16 depending on the size of your tins) – I used a baking spray, but the traditional method would be to brush them with melted butter, then tip in some flour and coat, tipping out any excess.

Melt the butter and leave to cool a little.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until light and frothy.

Whisk in the flour, vanilla (or lemon), baking powder and butter.

Leave the mix to stand for 20 minutes.  Don’t be tempted to skip this stage as the batter changed; it firmed up and became thicker.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tins taking care not to overfill.  I found a heaped tablespoon of batter was plenty for each mould.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until risen and golden.

Lift out of the tin and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Best eaten on the day of baking - ideally within an hour of coming out the oven.

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


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Comic relief

I can clearly remember the first Red Nose Day in 1988 – I was at school and it was a big, exciting event that everyone wanted to be part of.  For those who aren’t au fait with Comic Relief, it’s a UK charity raising funds – through the medium of comedy and general silliness - to help people living incredibly tough lives across Africa and the UK.  This year’s Red Nose Day is Friday 15th March.

The slogan of Comic Relief has always been ‘Do Something Funny For Money’ but, this year, for those of us who find the idea of being sponsored to sit in a bath of cold beans unappealing there’s another option...and it involves buying beautiful kitchenware!  Yay!  I mean, seriously, has there ever been a better way to give to charity?  Just look at my gorgeous mug (very rare photos – the mug is empty!):

British pottery maker Emma Bridgewater has created an exclusive new homeware range for Red Nose Day 2013; I adore Emma Bridgewater products and being able to justify buying more because I’m charitable is ace – no way Mr CC can argue with that reason!  

The collection consists of six different mug designs, two tea towels and apron designs, an oven glove and a bag for life, all designed to reflect the Red Nose Day personality and its theme.  The collection is available from HomeSense and TK Maxx stores throughout the UK.  The money donated from the range will be spent by Comic Relief.

What are you waiting for?  There has never been a better (or more charitable) time to go out shopping!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Caramalised pineapple and ginger cake

Way back in August 2008 I posted this recipe for a pear and ginger cake.  I will forgive you if you don’t remember it – I only had about 10 readers at the point and most of them were family or friends!  I fancied a simple sponge cake this week, as I didn’t have much time to bake, and decided this one needed revisiting...and tweaking a little.

I used tinned pineapple rings for the fruit  and cut them in half to achieve the same fan effect on the top as the pears.  I’m on a pineapple kick at the moment – can’t get enough of the stuff; I even snaffled the wedge of pineapple from my friend’s cocktail yesterday.  Before you have visions of me robbing her of it, I should point out that she doesn’t like pineapple and offered it freely!

The bonus – which I hadn’t foreseen – is that the sprinkling of dark sugar caramelised the pineapple into a sticky, dark, sweet delight.  Here’s a close up:

Pineapple and ginger is a lovely combination – it has that tropical spicy thing going on.  The sponge isn’t very spicy, it’s not a dark ginger cake, but just carries a kick that cuts through the sweetness of the fruit.

For the first time in months, the sun decided to shine as I took my photos.  I think it emphasises the sunny nature of the cake.  In the photo below you can just about make out the fleks of ginger in the sponge.


For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 eggs

For the topping:
567g tin of pineapple rings (drained weight 340g), drained and cut in half
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform cake tin.

Start by making the cake: cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the flour, ginger and eggs and beat until well combined and you have a smooth, thick batter.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and put to one side.

Arrange the pineapple slices on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took a little longer at 55 minutes.

Serve either warm with ice cream or at room temperature with cream.

Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Middle Eastern blood orange cake


I fancied baking something completely different and outside of my comfort zone this week.  When I saw blood oranges for sale I realised I had never eaten one, let alone baked with one.  I bought the oranges and then set about finding a recipe.

This recipe is from Claudia Roden’s  'A Book of Middle Eastern Food'.  I think of Claudia Roden as the Delia Smith of Middle Eastern cookery i.e. she’s totally reliable!  I’ve made several dinners from her recipes but never a cake so what a cracking recipe to start with!

The cake lacks two of the most common cake ingredients – butter and flour.  It is packed with eggs and almonds though, so that’s the first indication it will be fragrant and moist.

Boiling the oranges was certainly one of the odder things I’ve done (in the kitchen).  The smell while they were cooking was heavenly – the room had a gorgeous light citrus-y aroma that lingered long after the cooking was over.  Here is what a boiled orange looks like:

My blood oranges weren’t particularly dark in colour.  I was hoping for blood red and actually got a faint pink tinge that looked like my oranges were a little embarrassed about something.  Still, the puree had a wonderful rich colour:

The batter was much looser than a normal cake batter...

... more like a pulpy smoothie drink.  I was worried whether it would set during baking; it does but the finished cake is juicier than a sponge and the wet texture is a surprise on the first bite! (NB. The texture does firm up on subsequent days ending up almost like that tight baked cheesecake texture.  I recommend baking it at least one day before you wish to serve it.) All the fruity juices give the cake a wonderfully sticky exterior, particularly the top:

I have been baking pretty much every weekend for over seven years now and I find it thrilling that I can still find recipes completely unlike anything I’ve ever made before.  It really is impossible to ever say you’ve ‘mastered’ baking or done it all.  How lucky I am to have such a wonderful hobby!


oranges or 3 blood oranges
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder


Start with the oranges: Place them (whole and unpeeled) in a saucepan and cover them in water – they will float but you want enough water so that if you hold them down they are covered.

Boil for 1 ½ hours or until they are squidgy soft but holding their shape.  You might need to periodically top up the water.

I decided my oranges were ready when I could cut through the peel with the edge of a teaspoon.

Take the oranges out of the saucepan (you don’t need the water) and leave to cool.

Cut the oranges open and remove the pips then place the oranges –peel, pith et al – into a food processor and blitz until you have a thick puree.

You can prep the oranges a day in advance and keep in the fridge overnight.

Now make the cake: preheat the oven to 190ºc/ fan oven 170ºc/375ºf/gas mark 5.

Line a 20cm round springform cake tin with baking paper.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl.

Add the ground almonds, caster sugar, baking powder and pureed oranges and mix thoroughly.

Pour into the prepared cake tin.  It won’t look like a traditional cake batter – more like a very thick smoothie drink!

Bake for approximately 1 hour. If it is still very wet give it a further 10 minutes and reassess the situation then.  It should look moist and almost set but not quite.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

Serve as either a dessert or tea time treat.  Clotted cream works well!

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


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Fat Elvis cupcakes


Now these are going to disgust some people because they are topped with candied bacon!  It’s always good to start a baking post with the admission you’ll be disgusting some your mouth watering yet?  Bacon cupcakes were a big thing a couple of years back and I thought it was time I tried one.  Yes, I am about two years behind the curve on most things....never be an early adopter, that’s my motto!

Mr CC cannot even hear me speak of these cupcakes without grimacing.  He can’t get past the bacon.  I’ve tried rationalising it by asking him to ignore the bacon – pick it off if it appals him – and just focus on the banana cupcake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting.  He then admitted he has a problem with banana too.  I’m not going to convert him on this one, I can tell!

Seriously though, the bacon is a gimmick to tie it in to Elvis.  Simply omit it and you have a far more ‘normal’ cupcake.  The cupcake takes its – admittedly rather cruel – name from Elvis Presley’s alleged penchant, late in his life, for peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches.

I loved this cupcake.  The banana sponge is surprisingly light (lighter than say, banana bread) and more banana flavoured than eating a banana.  I know that’s impossible but it tastes so intense.  The cream cheese peanut butter frosting is thick and smooth and one of those things you want to roll around in your mouth because it feels so nice (oh....just me then?)

The bacon.  The bacon is AWESOME!  I went for unsmoked back bacon to stop it being too salty – the peanut butter is salty and I wanted to keep it a balanced, mostly sweet cupcake.  Cooking the bacon in the maple syrup was a special kitchen moment for me – close to spiritual.  The smell!  The look!  The taste!  Sigh.....!  Here are the three stages of the bacon:

I am aware that a lot of food sites are starting to promote Valentine’s baking...and I’ve made Fat Elvis cupcakes.  Perhaps not the most romantic of bakes.  I do have some Valentine’s bakes up my sleeve, but this weekend was more about the food of gluttony rather than the food of love!


For the sponge:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2 small/medium ripe bananas, mashed

For the frosting:

180g icing sugar
230g cream cheese, room temperature
115g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g smooth peanut butter
Optional: a handful chopped salted peanuts

For the glazed bacon:
4-6 rashers of bacon, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan oven 160ºC,350°F/ Gas mark 4.
Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper cases.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.
Beat in the remaining flour and baking powder.
Fold in the mashed bananas.
Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out cleanly. (They take a little longer than normal sponges because of the large amount of banana – it makes the batter rather wet)
Leave to cool - out of the tin – on a wire rack.
The sponges can be made a day or two in advance if stored in an airtight container.
Now make the frosting:  Sift icing sugar into the mixing bowl.
Add the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter and beat until smooth.
If the frosting is soft, ten minutes in the fridge will make it the perfect consistency.
Spread or pipe the frosting over the banana cakes and sprinkle with chopped salted peanuts (if using).
Again, the frosting can be made and applied to the cupcakes a day in advance of serving but need to be kept in the fridge because of the cream cheese.
To make the bacon: Start by cutting the bacon into 1.5 inch pieces.
Dry fry the bacon and pour away any fat that comes out.
Add maple syrup and cook until dark brown.  Be patient with this – it takes a while for the liquid of the maple syrup to evaporate and turn into a thick, treacly coating. Don’t rush it!  When it becomes difficult to turn the bacon because it sticks like glue to your’s ready!
Leave the glazed bacon to cool – ideally on a non stick surface as it’s pretty sticky!
It can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
Use as a cupcake topper.  I chopped each piece into three, so there wasn’t a huge chunk of bacon on top of the cupcake.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.