Cupcake Day

In honour of Cupcake Day, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the cupcakes I’ve made over the years. I used to bake a lot more than I do now, but cupcakes have always proved a winner.

I wish I could remember where all of the recipes are from, but I’m pretty sure most come from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Unfortunately, I can’t check, as my cookery books have been packed away for a while.

However, I know for certain, these Coca Cola Cupcakes are from the pen of Ms Dawson. I just took her sponge recipe and shared it between cupcakes and baked for a shorter time. They are always a huge hit.


For a variation, I swapped the cola for cream soda and used white hot chocolate in the icing. They went down well too!

coca cola cupcakes & cream soda cupcakes

Caramel cupcakes with a meringue frosting were also well received, as were the orange and poppy seed ones. (I have a feeling these may not be Nigella).

And one year, I stumbled across a recipe for Cream Egg brownies, so I made them into cupcakes, along with some basic double chocolate brownie cupcakes too.

The best reception I received though, was when I made 100 cupcakes of various varieties, including Coca Cola and Peanut Butter, for two friends who were getting married.


Again, I’m so sorry I can’t remember where I found all of the recipes now, but I’m pretty certain there’s no such thing as a bad cupcake recipe, so just dive in and give them a go!

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Thanks to my future father-in-law, I found myself with a mini-glut of courgettes. My fiancé isn’t overly keen on them, so after dishing up ratatouille and roasted courgettes, I figured I needed a different approach.

I’d heard of chocolate courgette cake, but never tried it myself. I put the idea to the other half, who looked less than impressed, it must be said, but nevertheless, I pressed ahead, determined not to let these lovely veggies go to waste.

After trawling the web, I found this recipe, which I followed, apart from I used 1tsp of ground mixed spice, as I couldn’t seem to find ground cloves anywhere. I used the two 23cm round tin method and they needed the best part of an hour to cook, so keep checking with a skewer after 40minutes of baking.

When it came to what to fill the two sponges with, I was at a loss for a while, but after rummaging through the fridge and cupboards and realising the shops had closed as it was after 4pm on a Sunday, I decided to just make something up.

Armed with half a block of butter, half a pack of cream cheese, the leftovers from the tub of soured cream and some icing sugar and cocoa powder, I set to making a form of sorts of butter icing. I blended the butter, cheese and soured cream together before adding a couple of dessert spoons each of the icing sugar and cocoa powder, before beating together again. After tasting, I thought it still tasted of cream cheese, so added more of the two dry ingredients. After another mix, I really liked it, so put half the mixture on the first sponge, sprinkled with some chocolate chips (which I confess, along with the walnuts I’d forgotten from the original recipe!) and topped with the second sponge, before spreading the rest of the icing on top.

I found this a lovely, moist sponge and very tasty – even my courgette-hating fiancé enjoyed it. Now that has to be a recommendation surely!!!

chocolate courgette cake

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Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.


Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

fruit crumble

Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of the easiest cakes to make and is a great way of using up bananas that could otherwise be facing the bin.

All you need to whip up this family favourite is:

150g self raising flour
165g caster sugar (white or golden)
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add in the sugar and the egg.


In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until smooth and add that to the other ingredients.


Simply mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is combined and pour into a lined loaf tin. I always line my loaf tins, as it saves on the washing up!


Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180C for around an hour. Check with a skewer and it if comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, before turning out on to a wire rack to cook complete and then enjoy with a cuppa.


As an alternative, you could stir through a handful of chopped nuts or chocolate chips or even a couple of spoonfuls’ of honey or peanut butter to jazz up the cake.


Turkey & Ham Pie

So, the turkey is drawing to a close and last night, part of the leftover meat was transformed into a tasty turkey and ham pie. It really couldn’t be easier and my fiancé loves it.

As you should know by now, I find life too short to make pastry, so I just bought a pack of ready rolled shortcrust and a pack of ready rolled puff pastry. Grease a pie dish and gently place the shortcrust in, making sure it’s nicely tucked down, with all the sides covered.

Then add in chunks of turkey – I use leg and breast – ham, stuffing and I sweat off a leak in some butter to pop on the top. For an extra treat, I sprinkled over some grated cheddar cheese.

In a saucepan, start by making a rue with melted butter and plain flour.


Allow the flour a little time to cook out, before adding in a splash of milk and whisking together. Keep adding milk slowly, whisking all the time, until you have a thick sauce. I also added some of the jelly from the turkey juices for added flavour and a grind of black pepper.


Pour the sauce over the meat


and pop the puff pastry on the top. Give it a milk wash – I use milk rather than egg as it’s cheaper – and cut a little cross in the top of the lid to give the steam somewhere to escape.


Place the pie on a baking tray – just in case it boils over – and place in the middle of a 180C oven for around 30-40mins. Again, I’m a horror when it comes to timing things, I just watch and go by gut, but as long as your pastry is nice and golden brown and the filling piping hot, you should be fine.


We had ours with mashed potatoes, sprouts – leftover from the Christmas shop! – and in my other half’s case, gravy.



Christmas Tree Cake

I’ve had my first go at icing a cake that wasn’t a standard round Christmas cake. For my birthday this year, I was given a Christmas tree cake tin and we thought we’d have a chocolate cake for our Christmas pudding this year.

As a trial run, I made a dummy run, which was going to be delivered to my in-laws, only for the snow to hit, so we had to eat it ourselves!

I won’t talk you through the chocolate cake, but I used Mary Berry’s recipe and it turned out really nice – well, she is the Queen of Cakes to me!

For this cake, I made two sponge cakes and after a slight wrestling match with the tin, I managed to get them out. Note to self, cooking spray isn’t enough, always line!


The two chocolate trees were filled with freshly whipped cream and a whole jar of strawberry jam. Then, I used ready-rolled (short cut) marzipan to top the cake, before rolling out green icing (I used two packets, but three would be better) and for the trunk, I used a pack of chocolate icing, which I rolled out.

To top the cake off, I used edible glitter spray in gold and silver, some little red sugar balls, silver sugar balls and some edible snowflakes. To get them to stick, I used a little bit of gin – vodka works well too.

I didn’t think I did too bad for my first attempt and was gutted I couldn’t get it to its intended recipients. I’ll now be having another go ready for Christmas next week.


Christmas Cake

It’s that time of year to start your Christmas cooking. This week, I have baked my Christmas cake. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book.

First up, was to soak the fruit in brandy – all 400ml of it! After bringing it to the boil, it was left to steep overnight and it smelt absolutely heavenly.


The next day, I prepared the rest of the mixture and was just about to start adding in the fruit and dry ingredients to the sugar, butter and eggs, when I found out I didn’t have enough nuts. Mad dash to the shop to get the missing ingredient and it was on with the mixing. Mixing together the finished batter is pretty tough going, but stick with it and think of the good it’s doing for your bingo wings!


Lining the tin is always fun, but after some adjustments, it was ready and full of cake mix, which was then popped in the oven on 150C.





Nigella said it would take between 2.75-3.25hours, but I checked mine after 2.5hrs and it was done.



After getting it out of the oven, I brushed the top with more brandy and wrapped in tin foil twice. It cracked!! But this was because I didn’t allow it to cool enough, so make sure you really allow yours to cool before taking it out of the tin. However, checking the cake again today and it has survived, hurrah!


For the next five weeks now,  I shall feed the cake brandy every day, through until Christmas Eve, when I shall ice it, ready for the big day.

Sausage Rolls

One of the big favourites in my house is sausage rolls. It seems I can’t make enough of them and as fast as I make them, they vanish!


I use shop-bought puff pastry for my sausages rolls – in my world, life is too short to be making puff pastry. I also, always buy my sausage meat from the butcher, rather than the supermarket, as I find it is far less fatty and much tastier. Personal preference.

I always make a double batch and for this I use two packs of pastry and two packs of sausages meat.

Put the sausage meat in a good-sized bowl and add plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and as much tobacco as you like. Add a pinch of thyme or any other dried herb you like, salt and pepper and two or three rashers of bacon, cut up into small pieces. If I have any to hand, I also chop up a handful of olives and add those too. I’ve also added parmesan cheese in the past. In fact, it’s a bit of a running joke in the house that I never make them the same way twice! Actually, on this occasion, I fried off tiny pieces of chorizo and added that and its released oil into the mix.

I say experiment and just try adding a bit of this and that and see how it turns out!

Once you have all your ingredients in the bowl, it’s time to get your hands dirty and give it a good squish together.

Roll out your ready-to-use pastry and slice into two long rectangles. Place a line of sausage meat mix down the centre of each half and carefully roll into the ‘sausage’ shape. I use milk as a wash to seal the pastry together rather than eggs. Once you have your sausage roll, milk wash the top and then cut into portions – it’s entirely up to you what size you want. Pop a little slash in the top of each sausage roll.

Use the paper the pastry was wrapped in for your baking paper and pop into a pre-heated oven at 200C for around 20mins, or until the sausage rolls are nicely golden. Leave them to cool on a wire rack, or watch them vanish, which may be the preferred option for others in your home!20170816_234736

Apple Cake

Like many of us at the moment I’m sure, I am wading my way through an absolute mountain of apples. We were very lucky so stumble across some wild growing apples, so we stocked up – my other half eats them like they’re going out of fashion!

So, on the menu, just had to be an apple cake.

I had a browse online and came across this recipe for Dorset Apple Traybake. It looked simple enough, so I gave it a go.

It’s very easy, all of the ingredients go into a bowl at once to make sponge cake – a very rich one at that I might add. And then you layer the sponge mix and apples into a baking tin before popping in the oven – simple!


I have to say the finished cake is rather nice and I can highly recommend you give it a try. I think next time I give it a go, I may add some spices or chocolate chips, maybe even some peanut butter.


Sharon’s Parcels

Last night, I made a steak and kidney pie for dinner, thinking – foolishly! – it would last for two nights’ dinner. Wrong! My partner couldn’t help but go back for seconds, meaning there was only enough left for dinner tonight – my dinner! But what was I going to give him??

I opted for pasties, or as they turned out, Sharon’s Parcels! Now, for me, life is just too short to make pastry, well more to the point, it’s the one thing that I’m yet to brave making on my own. But, as I was using puff pastry on this occasion, I think I can get away with shop bought – can’t I?

Starting with some casserole steak, I diced it into bite-sized pieces and browned them in a saucepan, with a little oil, before removing the meat into a bowl and dusting with plain flour – this will help to thicken the gravy later.

Then I put a finely chopped onion and two cloves of minced garlic in the same pan and softened them for a few minutes, before adding a finely chopped carrot, finely sliced leek and a good knob of butter, along with a beef stock pot and a red wine stock pot. Allow the stock pots to melt down and keep everything moving in the pan.

Return the steak to the pan, along with any juices that have seeped out, whilst it’s been resting and give it a good stir. Add in enough water to just cover everything in the pan and turn the heat down low, add some salt, pepper, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch or oregano, stir it in and let the meat mix simmer for a good hour, stirring occasionally.


After an hour, add a potato, cut up small and add that into the mix. I had baking potatoes to hand, so that’s what went in. I added it later, so it didn’t turn to mush. Check too at this point whether the gravy is thick enough for you – remember, it’s going in pastry, so you want a fairly thick one. If it’s not thick enough, make a slurry out of cornflour and add that in, giving it a good stir. Leave to simmer for another hour, again stirring occasionally, then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool.


Once cool, take your pastry and roll it out – or unroll if you’re like me, using shop bought – and cut your shapes. I had two rectangles. Put a generous, but not too generous amount of filling in, put a little milk – it’s cheaper than egg wash – around the edges and make your parcels, or if you’re super neat, pasties. Brush the top with milk and put in the oven at 180C for around half an hour. Again, I’m a so-and-so for timings, I go by look and feel, so just keep checking! When the pastry is golden brown and possibly serving.


A sturdy baking tray is a kitchen staple in my opinion.