Pistachio and White Chocolate Cake

Before this, I hadn’t baked just a straightforward cake for ages. I was really starting to miss the feel of beating butter and sugar together, of breaking eggs and the hard to describe sound of batter as it’s mixed around the bowl.

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But, most of all, I was missing the taste of cake. Unsurprisingly, I have eaten far less cakes since being gluten free than at the peak of the gluten-ful diet I previously enjoyed. A craving for cake can really only be satisfied by cake, and this one pulls no punches. Full of butter, sugar and white chocolate, this cake is unashamedly unhealthy.

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I have been experimenting with replacing wheat flour in various recipes over the past six or months, with, admittedly, varying degrees of success. My preferred substitute is rice flour, which I think has a really delicious flavour. The one downside of rice is, however, it’s tendency to suck all moisture out of anything. I have it on extremely good authority that the whole putting your phone in a bowl of rise after you drop it in the toilet thing actually does work, and I can totally vouch for the dryness of rice. I’ve been battling against dry gluten free cakes for month, and then I had this revelation.

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This cake was perfectly moist and soft all thanks to the addition of some chopped pistachios. Turns out that not only are nuts a delicious cake ingredient, but their oil really helps to combat the dryness issue. A cake miracle. I would highly, highly recommend the combination of white chocolate and pistachio. I can’t resist putting dried rose petals on top of anything (must have something to do with my name…!) but how you decorate is completely up to you! Gluten free or not, this is a cake you don’t want to not eat!

Pistachio and White Chocolate Cake

220g unsalted butter softened
220g caster sugar
4 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100ml milk
50g coarsely chopped pistachios
50g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Begin by creaming together your butter and sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder and milk and mix well before adding the pistachios and white chocolate (easy!)

Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until it is slightly golden and crisp on top. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.

For the icing:
150g white chocolate
150g butter, slightly softened
150g icing sugar
pistachios, to decorate
rose petals, optional

Begin by melting your white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Be careful- white chocolate can burn more easily than normal chocolate, so make sure the water is only just simmering.
Beat your butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add your melted, cooled chocolate and mix well.
Cut the cake in half, and spread half the icing over the bottom layer, then sandwich the other half on top. Spread the rest of the icing over the top of the cake and decorate. Perfect with a big cup of (green) tea!

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xxR

American Flag Cake- Happy 4th of July!

Normally when I bake something, I publish the recipe to the blog within about a week, a few weeks if I’m feeling lazy or overrun with uni work. I’ve had to wait a year to share this though….

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I made this cake for my 21st birthday last July. I celebrated on the 4th- so I thought an over-the-top, American flag on the inside cake was the perfect accompaniment to my garden BBQ, and the best way to celebrate my favourite time of year. Obviously, now that we live in England, the 4th of July can sometimes slip by without even a vague sniff of recognition. I miss the fireworks and BBQs on the beach that defined the 4th in Connecticut, and always try to have a small celebration here.

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So, a year later, as I get ready to have a weekend of all out celebrations (my MA graduation is also on Monday- so this really will be a joy filled weekend), I want to share this year old cake. It’s deceptively easy to make, but still incredibly impressive when the inside is revealed. Think checkerboard cake (if you’ve never made one, my instructions for doing so can be found here).

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You have to bake two red and two white cakes. Cut them both in half, so you have four of each. Begin by placing a red cake on your serving plate, spread it with icing, then place a white on top. Repeat until you have red white red white. Then, you will need a blue cake. Bake one and do not cut it in half- so it should be roughly as thick as one red and one white cake together.

Then, you will need to cut a large circle out of the middle of the blue cake. The best way is to trace around a plate, then use that as a template. When your blue cake has a large hole in the middle, place it on top of your red and white pile.

Then, take two of the remaining red and white cakes. (You will be left with half a red and half a white cake- but you can enjoy these as you’re working!) Using the template, cut away the edges of the cake so that you are left with a smaller one, exactly the size of the hole in the blue cake. Then, sandwich the red and white together and squeeze into the hole in the blue one.

So now, you should have:

Blue ring with Red and White in the middle
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Red
White
Red
So when you cut a slice, you will see the red and white stripes and the blue square in the top corner of each- just like the American flag! If you are feeling especially creative (and something I wish I’d thought of!) you could add some white star shaped sprinkles to your blue cake, for added authenticity!

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American Flag Cake

for the cake, I just used my basic cake recipe. You will need to make a lot, so I suggest making the cakes in batches.

For the red and white batches:

28og butter

28og suger

5 eggs

280g self raising flour

1 tablespoon of milk

drops of red food colouring (for the red cake only)- you will probably need to use quite a lot, so add some, mix, and check the colour. If it needs to be more vivid, add more.

For the blue batch:

2oog butter

2oog sugar

3 eggs

2oog self raising flour

1 tablespoon of milk

blue food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Slowly add the flour, then milk and finally foot colouring. Once everything is well combined, pour into a greased and lined cake tin, or two for the red and white batches.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes, or until the cake is slightly firm to the touch.

Leave the cakes to cool entirely before cutting and assembling.

Happy 4th!

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xxR

Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Everyone knows that blueberries are my favourite fruit. When I found loads of punnets in the reduced section last week, I couldn’t resist stocking up my freezer! I baked these cupcakes last Sunday when the sun was shining and the sweltering heat was making it really feel like summer. Today, sadly, isn’t quite so beautiful. IMG_9583 IMG_9587

I love London in the summer. Everything feels so laid back, much more so than in the winter. When it’s cold, grey and rainy, it’s difficult to enjoy anything. The herds of people in coats with heads bowed against the drizzle, rushing past each other turn into crowds spilling out of pub doors, Pimms in hand, and flocking to London’s parks.

Last Sunday was one of those pub going, park visiting days. We packed a huge picnic, donned summer dresses and sunglasses, and followed the hoards of people heading to Hampstead Heath, which, thankfully, I live about five minutes away from!

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It is rare that British weather is good, so when the sun shines, you really have to make the most of it. I also have something other than the gorgeous weather to celebrate. I finished my dissertation, and, subsequently my MA, on Thursday! So, sunshine or no sunshine, I’m very happy. And the prefect accompaniment to happiness is cupcakes, regardless of whether or not I can eat them!

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Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

2oog butter

2oog caster sugar

3 eggs

2oog self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

1 punnet blueberries

Preheat the oven to 18o degrees Celcuis.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and mix well. Then add the flour and baking powder. Stir in the milk.

Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases and spoon a tablespoon of mixture into each case. Once the cases are full, place a handful of blueberries on top of each one and, using your finger, push into the mixture  slightly. I do it this way to ensure that all the berries don’t sink the bottom.

Bake for 15-2o minutes, or until slightly golden brown and firm and springy to the touch.

For the icing:

1oog white chocolate

25og butter, slightly softened

25og icing sugar

Begin by melting the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of over simmering water, then place it to one side and allow it to cool completely.

While the white chocolate is cooling, beat together the butter and icing sugar until it is pale and fluffy. If you have a freestanding mixer, it is best to use the whisk attachment to get the lightest icing.

When the chocolate is cool, stir it in. When the cupcakes have cooled, spoon a dollop of icing onto each cupcake and smooth. Decorate with a few blueberries and enjoy! IMG_9585

xxR

Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake

I have recently been diagnosed as coeliac, which means that I can’t eat any wheat or gluten containing products, so conventional baked goods are out of the question! At first, I was just pleased to hear that, after what has been a very long process that involved numerous trips to hospitals and doctors and various tests, something has finally been identified.

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But, then, I started to have a bit of a meltdown. A lot of my favourite foods contain gluten, not to mention my obsession with baking! I was really panicking about things that are very far in the distant future like my wedding cake (no ones going to want to come to a wedding and have to eat gluten free cake!) and questions like what if my children are really fussy eaters and only want to eat pasta with grated cheese (me at age five)?! And pizzas on the barbecue….

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But, after about 24 hours of pure freak out, I managed to snap out of it, and have spent the last couple of weeks researching gluten free recipes profusely.

I went home for the weekend with my sister while my parents were away, so we decided to bake the most ridiculously decadent flour less chocolate cake ever, partially as a celebration of my new gluten free diet (waaah), and partially because Phoebe desperately wanted something sweet and I wasn’t about to miss out on the fun!

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Don’t be fooled. Just because this cake is gluten free, doesn’t mean it is particularly healthy. It is still full of chocolate, butter, sugar and all the other wheat free things that make a cake a cake. The lack of any sort of flour makes it really soft and gooey, almost like a giant brownie, with the most luxurious melt-in-the-mouth consistency. It is also ridiculously easy, with only 5 ingredients, so I thoroughly recommend you whip it up this weekend, whether you’re gluten free or not, and enjoy it in the sunshine!

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Flourless Chocolate Cake 

2oog dark (gf) chocolate

2oog butter

2oog caster sugar

5 eggs

cocoa powder, to sprinkle on top

Begin by melting the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir it occasionally if you want (this is highly therapeutic and really enjoyable, so I recommend you do it!) Once it has melted, set it aside to cool.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Add 1oog of the caster sugar to the yolks and whisk until they are pale and fluffy, which should take about 5 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, until they look like cloud and really hold their shape. You need the fluffiness to make your cake rise, so the firmer the better! Once they are stiff, add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Poor the cooled chocolate into the egg yolks and whick well. Then, fold in the egg whites. Be careful not to knock the air out of them. Pour your mixture into a greased and lined baking tray.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 45-5o minutes, or until the top is crisp. The inside should still be gooey. Don’t worry if the top starts to crack- that’s part of the charm! Leave it in the tin to cool, then sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top and enjoy with cream or ice cream and plenty of strawberries!

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xxR

Chai Spiced Cake with Ginger Icing

I am a self-confessed kitchen control freak. Ask anyone who has ever lived with me/ baked with me/ baked near me. I try so so hard not to jump in and take over, but sometimes, I simply can’t help it.

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Last weekend, three of my cousins came to visit. We very rarely see each other- two of them are really little and live in France and the other, who’s my age, in Exeter (which is basically as long a journey!) so it is always a treat when we can all get together. The house was absolutely full of girls, even more so than usual, and my dad was pretty overrun. After a long lunch and a catch up, and in between the outbursts of singing, the continuous dancing taking place in the kitchen, the nail painting and sisterly bickering, we decided to bake. It was my aunt’s birthday the next day, so one of my cousins wanted to make a cake for her tea party birthday celebration.

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She had decided on a chai tea spiced cake with ginger icing- which, of course I highly recommended as I love it (and have used it numerous times e.g. here and here.) I am also partial to a chai latte in a coffee shop, especially one made with plenty of  almond milk, but, I have to admit, I have never bothered to buy a bag and make it at home. I am much more of a green tea person. So, of course, I was interested. I love spices so it sounded right up my street. Sadly, I didn’t get to taste any, so honestly I am not sure how a chai cake tastes, but my cousin tells me that it was really yummy, especially when paired with the ginger icing.

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This time, thankfully, I managed to control my controlling tendencies, for the most part anyway! Martha, my cousin, might disagree… We also had to contend with our younger cousin, Carla, attempting to wrestle the spoons from our hands to link at every opportunity, and, of course, there was a fight to lick the bowl at the end!

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Despite the sheer chaos that ensues when six cousins come together in a kitchen, the end result was beautiful, and, I’m told by everyone who ate it, delicious too.

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Chai Spiced Cake with Ginger Icing

For the cake:

2 chai teabags

15oml boiling water

3oog butter

44og sugar

6 eggs

33og self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Begin by steeping the two teabags in the boiling water, as if you’re making a pot of tea. Put that to one side to cool.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift together the flour and the spices, then add to the butter mixture. Once the tea is completely cool, add that to batter.

Spoon the batter into a greased and lined cake tin, then bake at 18o degrees for 5o-6o minutes, or until it is starting to go golden brown on the top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

For the icing:

15og butter

3oog icing sugar

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon of milk, if needed

Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light in colour and fully combined. The best way to do this is in a mixer with a whisk, simply because it makes the lightest icing (and involved the least effort from you!) However, if you don’t have a mixer, a wooden spoon will also do the trick! Once it is completely combined, stir in the ground ginger. Add a splash of milk if you need it to loosen the mixture. You don’t want it runny, but it needs to be spreadable.

When the cake is cool, cut it in half. Spread half your icing over the first layer and sandwich the second on top. Then, spread the rest of the icing over the top, decorate and devour with a big cup of tea (chai tea optional).

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xxR

Henna Cupcakes

I have just come back from a trip to Marrakech.

place des epices in marrkech

place des epices in marrkech

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It is an amazing city, the perfect combination of bustling, crazy, extremely fast paced souks and serene, beautiful, ancient palaces. We were staying right in the centre of the Medina, very very close to Jamaa el-Fna, the main square, which made for an eye-opening, though not entirely relaxing visit. We were woken up in the early hours of every morning by a very vocal donkey braying and a chorus of roosters.

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As soon as we stepped out of the front door, we were in the midst of the souk, trying to avoid being run over by the mopeds that zoom through the tiny streets, yelling at pedestrians to jump out of their way and donkeys pulling over-loaded carts. Everywhere people shout at you, trying to attract you to look and and buy their wares.

the centre of the souk

the centre of the souk

haggling for lamps

haggling for lamps

It is impossible not to buy anything. We came home with rugs, lamps, jewellery and stacks of bowls and plates, all beautifully hand painted- I was in heaven, being an absolute crockery lover.

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It is not just the thousands of plates hanging in the souks that are a thing of beauty. Every building you go into, from the riad we were staying in, to the palaces that date from the sixteenth century, is adorned with the most ornate decoration. Marrakech is famous for its tiles, and rightly so.

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However, the palaces were also decorated with amazing relief carving, of both wood and stone, creating complex archways and eye catching details, even in the great heights of the vaulted ceilings. It is impossible not to be stunned by the beauty of these places, but also the craftsmanship that went into their creation.

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These cupcakes are my little homage to Marrakech, playing on the shapes and designs of the city, and of course, henna, which is not only something I love but also something that is very quintessentially Marrakechian.

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They are full of the flavours of the Marrakech, mainly cinnamon, which is used in both sweet and savoury Moroccan dishes.

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There is also something very similar about icing a cupcake and applying henna…

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‘Henna Cupcakes’- Chocolate Spiced Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing

for the cupcakes:

150g chocolate

80g butter

240g plain flour

240g brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

240ml milk

2 eggs

Begin by melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once it has melted, take it off the heat. It has to be completely cool before you can use it.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they resemble sand. Then add the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

In a jug, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add about 2/3 of this mixture to the flour mixture and beat to combine. When it is well mixed, add the rest.

When the chocolate is really cool, stir it in.

Spoon the batter into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to the touch with a slight spring.

for the icing:

400g icing sugar

200g butter

splash of milk, if needed

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Beat the icing sugar and butter together really well until it is completely combined. Add a splash of milk if needed to make it a silky, icing consistency. But you don’t want it too runny if you are going to pipe it, so go easy on the milk!

Put about 1/4 of the icing into a separate bowl and add the cinnamon. You want it to be a nice brown colour. Mine wasn’t really brown enough to stand out well, so if you think it needs to be a darker colour, add more. Be careful though- you don’t want the cinnamon to be way too strong! Keep tasting as you add it. You can always add a splash of brown food colouring if the cinnamon just isn’t dark enough.

Put the icing into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe your favourite henna patterns!

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xxR

Raspberry Cupcakes with Mint Icing

These cupcakes really divided the crowd. I loved them- mint is up there in my favourite herbs; I will happily eat a whole bunch raw. I think it’s delicious in salads and sweets.

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To me, mint is summery and light, which, let’s face it, is exactly what you want your cupcakes to be. A friend of mine, who I test a lot of my bakes on these days, said she was worried about them being toothpastey, but no, she liked them too. Or, at least, she said she did. Maybe she’s just nice.

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My parents, on the other hand, were less than complimentary. They said herbs are not meant in cupcakes. They couldn’t get to grips with my maverick flavour combinations. But I think mint works perfectly in sweet things, especially with raspberries! Hello- match made in heaven!

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If you are feeling adventurous, I urge you to give these a go. Just think Pimm’s.

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Raspberry Cupcakes with Mint Icing

For the cupcakes:

200g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 punnet raspberries

Begin by beating together the butter and sugar until pale, then add the eggs and mix well. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Finally, mix in the vanilla.

Cut the raspberries in half or quarters, and then gently mix them in. Be careful not to just squish them!

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees celcius for 20-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

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For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter

handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

Beat the icing sugar and butter together until pale. It is best to do this with a whisk if you want really white, light icing. Add the mint and stir well.

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When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the icing over the top and decorate with a raspberry and a mint leaf.

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Verdict?

xxR

First Day of Spring Lemon Cake

Today is the official first day of Spring. Apparently. In London it is nothing but grey and cold. But the first day of Spring is something to celebrate, sun or no sun.

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It is also the International Day of Happiness. So despite the heavy cloud covering all of London, I am feeling pretty good! Spring is on its way, even if it isn’t that apparent today….

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This cake is perfect for injecting some much needed sunshine into an otherwise very grey day. It has two whole lemons in it, which makes it not only the colour of pure sunshine, but also gives it a citrus flavour that screams summer.

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Whole Lemon Cake

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For the cake:

2 unwaxed lemons

275g butter

275g caster cugar

275g self raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs

1 tablespoon milk

Place the lemons in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lemons are very very soft. Cut them in half and remove the pips, then put the whole thing, skin included in a food processor and blitz until it is fairly smooth. Put the lemon mixture in a small bowl.

Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and milk, then add half the blitzed lemon.

Divide between two greased and lined baking tins and bake at 180 degrees celcius for 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter

splash of milk, if needed

Whisk the butter and icing sugar together until it is light and fluffy, adding the milk if necessary to loosen the mixture. Add the remaining blitzed lemon and mix well.

Sandwich the cakes together with plenty of icing in the middle and on the top. Decorate in the most spring-like way you can (I used dried rose and cornflower petals- be creative!)

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xxR

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries

Last weekend was my grandfather’s birthday and my mother threw a big lunch for all the family at our house.

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Gramps is 86, but he acts like he’s about 30, so I baked a cake to match his mental age. There were 18 of us, so I knew it had to be big. When I was little, my mum always made chocolate cake topped with a mountain of whipped cream and berries for birthdays, and those cakes were the inspiration behind this one.

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This cake is perfect for any occasion. It also reminds me of summer birthdays, which I’m so in the mood for after the sunshine this weekend!

Chocolate Birthday Cake 

For the cake:

240g plain flour

240g caster sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

60g cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

80g butter

240ml milk

2 eggs

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa, salt and butter in a bowl and mix until it is a sandy consistency. Pour in half the milk and beat until it is incorporated.

Whisk the eggs and remaining milk together in a separate bowl, then pour into the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated.

Grease and line a large cake tin and pour in two thirds of the mixture. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 170 degrees celcius. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. When it is cool, turn out onto a cooling rack and bake the other third of the mixture.

For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter at room temperature

about a tablespoon of milk

Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then add the milk if needed to make it a more runny consistency.

To assemble:

200ml double cream

50g icing sugar

a selection of berries

Whisk the cream until it forms firm peaks, then add the icing sugar and mix in.

Cut the larger cake in half. Place one half on a cake stand. Spread half the icing over the cake, then place the other half on top. Spread the remaining icing over it, then place the last cake on top.

Spoon the whipped cream onto the top of the cake, and decorate with the berries.

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xxR

(Hot) Lemon (and Poppyseed) and Honey Mini Cakes

This is definitely cold season. Everyone (myself included) seems to have some sort of cold/sore throat/ cough or is just a bit generally run down.

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Everyone knows that the best (and probably only) way to truly combat a cold is a big mug of hot lemon and honey. Not only is it yummy and warm, but honey itself is also very good for soothing even the sorest of throats. There are also a whole host of other health benefits of drinking hot lemon and honey- it promotes weight loss, aids digestion and gives skin a healthy glow.

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These are the cake alternative. I wish I could say that they had as many health benefits as the liquid counterpart, but, alas, the amount of butter, sugar and flour in them probably cancels out any good that the honey and lemon might do.

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But they are yummy! So if you are feeling a bit under the weather- have one anyway, it will definitely perk you up. And maybe have a cup of hot lemon and honey on the side too…

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Lemon Poppyseed Cakes with Honey Icing

For the cakes:

225g butter

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

225g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons milk

zest and juice of 1 lemon

50g poppyseeds

Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Then stir in the milk, followed by the lemon juice and poppy seeds. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases or a greased muffin tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.

For the honey icing:

140g butter

280g icing sugar

about 2 teaspoons milk

about 4 teaspoons honey

Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then add the milk if needed to loosen the mixture. You don’t want it to be too runny so only add it if you think you need it! Then stir in the honey. Add more if you think it needs it, but use some caution- you don’t want a really sickly sweet icing!

I cut my cakes in half and sandwiched icing in the middle, or you could dollop it on top instead!

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Candied lemon to decorate (optional):

1 unwaxed lemon

about 1 cup of sugar

about 1 cup of water

(with both the sugar and the water, you don’t need to be very precise, so just use a normal size mug for these measurements- or don’t measure at all! You just need roughly the same amount of each.)

Boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cut the lemon into thin slices, and put in the boiling sugar and water mixture. Simmer until the lemon pith has gone translucent and the whole thing is fairly soft.

Take the lemons out of the water and cover in some dry caster sugar, then leave, ideally overnight, to cool and harden completely before using. They will keep for about a week in an airtight container.

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xxR