Thursday, 31 May 2012

Foodie Pen Pals

I mentioned foodie pen pals in my last post and today is reveal day! A little bit about foodie pen pals: the project was started by Lindsay at in the US and more recently Carole-Ann at has started a UK and Europe version. I found out about foodiepenpals through Fee at and my inner foodie couldn't resist!

Each month you get matched with someone to send a food parcel to and in turn someone else sends you a parcel of goodies. This month Libby at was my foodie pen pal. I was looking forward to the arrival of my parcel but it was even better than I could have imagined - i think Libby knows me better than I do! Here is the contents of my box:

Libby sent me:

- some mini union jack cupcake cases which I'm going to use to make jubilee cupcakes for the pageant on Sunday

- Some special jubilee tea which I haven't tried yet but I'm off all next week so I think I'll enjoy them over a leisurely breakfast :)

- some mini packs of Teapigs tea - one choclate and one caramel. I tried these straight away - a brilliant way to keep me away from the biscuit tin in the evening!

- this fantastic little gadget for removing the centre of cupcakes for filling with jam, ganache, peanut butter, nutella, salted caramel - the possibilities are endless....! I haven't used it yet but I'll be sure to blog the results when I do!

- Finally, I saved the very best to last. This is the proof that Libby had definitely had a good look at my blog. Last month I made a chocolate bacon cake (more accurately, in the end I made five!) and converted many a sceptic. Libby absolutely made my day/week/month by sending me..... Bacon Jam! I don't know where she found it but it is wonderful!

I can't express how happy my foodie pen pals parcel had made me - Libby had obviously really thought into what she sent which made it really special.

I definitely recommend foodie pen pals for anyone who is a foodie at heart. Take a look here for more info and to sign up.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


My mum has always made flapjack and from an early age I developed a snobbery against sickly sweet shop-bought flapjack. Mum puts sultanas in hers which is what I usually do as they are cheap ands easy to get hold of. However recently I've taken to packing my flapjack full of nuts and other dried fruit.

When pondering what I could send to my Foodie Pen Pal which would survive the journey, I decided to experiment with yoghurt dipped flapjack. A bit of googling told me that 'yoghurt-dipped' flapjack contains a shocking amount of white chocolate - but it tastes great! I made my penpal cranberry and walnut flapjack, the remains of which went down so well (or quickly) with my boyfriend that I made a hazelnut and sultana version to sell at a market last weekend.

The great thing about flapjack is that you can adapt it to suit what's in your cupboards, just chuck in whatever dried fruit, nuts or seeds you happen to have. The below recipe is my mum's which I adapted for these cranberry and walnut bars of oaty goodness! For me the key to a good flapjack is brown sugar and the addition of an egg which many recipes don't include but I find that it binds the oats well and still creates the perfect amount of 'chewiness'. For an extra treat dip in or drizzle with the yoghurt mixture - it goes perfectly with the cranberries but the flapjack is still delicious without it!


4oz butter
4oz light brown sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
12oz porridge (I find that cheap ones work best)
1 beaten egg
about 5oz of cranberries and walnuts (or other dried fruit/nuts)

- Preheat oven to 160C and line a baking tin
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat
- Add the sugar and golden syrup to the melted butter and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the oats
- Once the oats are completely covered in the mixture, add the egg and mix well.
- Add dried fruit and nuts and pour into the baking tin.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before cutting and eating :)

Optional Yoghurt Topping (recipe from

200g white chocolate
100ml plain yoghurt

- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. (Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water)
- Remove the bowl and allow to cool slightly
- Mix in the yoghurt and leave the mixture to cool.

I'm entering this into the Flapjack Challenge being hosted by Homemade by Fleur. Check out Fleur's blog including some fabulous recipes here.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Gluten-free traybake

My housemate was hosting a dinner party back in Brighton last weekend with several wheat/gluten free guests. She asked me if I could made a 'sweet' to have after the meal. Obviously I was more than happy to have an excuse to bake and agreed!

I immediately started dreaming up cheesecakes and meringue creations but as it would have to travek with her to work and then down to Brighton I figured a traybake might be the best idea. I have a really good flourless brownie recipe but I noticed that I've made quite a few chocolately things recently and wanted to make a bit of a change.

I rarely make traybakes as I find it more exciting and interesting to make cupcakes or a large celebration cake and I'm not sure I completely succeeded here. This little invention was inspired by bakewell tarts (her favourite!) and cheesecake brownies. I made a traybake version of a gluten free almond cake I've made a few times, spread a layer of raspberry jam on it and topped with baked cheesecake.

The result was a little thinner than I had hoped for - if I made it again I would use a smaller tin. However I hear it did go down very well so I think I might experiment with the recipe again.


5ggs, separated
200g (7oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) ground almonds
rasberry jam
280g (9oz) cream cheese
2 eggs
120g (4oz) caster sugar
tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line your baking tray. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add half the sugar and continue to whisk for one minute. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for 2-3 minutes until pale and thick. Fold in in the ground almonds. Stir in 3 spoonfuls of the
egg whites to loosen mixture. Fold in the rest of the egg whites. Pour into the baking tray and bake for ten minutes.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.

After ten minutes, spread a layer of raspberry jam on top of the sponge then top with the cream cheese mixture. Put back in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into large portions :)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chocolate and Strawberry Roulade

Ever since I saw all the wonderful looking roulade's entered into the Weekly Bake Off a few of weeks ago I've been wanting to make one. I went home to my parents' last weekend and as my mum follows a wheat free diet (and loves cream!) I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test out this flourless wonder.

This was a bit of a challenge to myself, it's not anything that I've ever made before and I've always been terrified of rolling the cake so I wanted to see whether I could do it. It was nice to be back in a spacious kitchen and I got all my ingredients prepared before starting (this is very unlike me!). After debating whether I should use the baking tray that was slightly to big or the one that was slightly too small, I set about making the simple chocolate sponge.

It became apparent once the cake was baked that I had not done a very good job of spreading the mixture evenly but apart from that all seemed to be going well and I left the cake to cool whilst I went out for dinner. Fast forward a few hours and I arrive home full of food and ready to complete my roulade. Following my Dad's advice I trimmed the edges of the cake to make it easier to roll and less likely to crack. I whipped the cream and sweetened it with icing sugar (I know this makes me a bad person but I have a sweet tooth ok!). I had wanted to fill the roulade with raspberries to make it more summery but they didn't have any raspberies at the market so I settled for strawberries. I sliced the strawberries and lay them over the layer of cream. Now came the moment of truth..... As soon as I began rolling I realised that I had made my life difficult for myself by using strawberries. They are not as 'squishy' as rasberries and did not take well to being rolled.

The result was rather more cracked than I had hoped for so in an attempt to make the cake more aesthetically pleasing I decided to use the leftover chocolate I had to make a ganache and drizzle it over the roulade. Topped with some strawberries, I was quite pleased with the end result.

Chocolate sponge and cream is not really my kind of cake to be honest, I prefer something a bit more 'cakey' with some exciting flavours. I was pleased I had made it however and will probably make it again to practice my rolling and experiment with flavours. It was a new challenge and I certainly wouldn't have won this technical bake but I'll keep trying!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Salted Caramel

I have been very intrigued by the recent salted caramel craze and it's high on my list of things to try/make/bake with. So I was very excited when my mum brought me a present back from Paris: a cute little jar of 'caramel au beurre sale' with it's own little spoon. She said that she thought I could bake with it and I fully intend on doing so but not before i had tasted it.

So it turns out salted caramel tastes like Werther's Originals - who would've known?! (Probably plenty of people but certainly not me) I'm not sure whether this is the same salted caramel that is featuring it cupcake bakeries over here but it's certainly yummy. I'm thinking of using it to sandwich together macarons. If there's any left......

Friday, 11 May 2012

They're not Mary's, They're Mine! - Indulgent Walnut Brownies

In my bid to be prepared for the pre-Bake Off baking marathon, I may have gone a little overboard on the Tesco shop and now have a cupboard full of walnuts. So when it was announced that this week's WeeklyBakeOff was Mary Berry's Dark Indulgent Walnut Brownies I knew I was taking part!

Perfecting a brownie recipe is an art form which is completely beyond me; I usually use Nigella's flourless recipe as my mum is gluten free and they make deliciously gooey brownies. That, I think, is the key - I have tasted far too many sad, dry brownies (or maybe I have tasted too many brownies - no, that can't be right!). For me, the perfect brownies also must contain nuts so this recipe sounded promising.

To give the brownies their extra chocolatey indulgence Mary added chocolate chips as well as the dark chocolate melted into the brownie mixture. Wanting to do something a little different, I decided to swap these for white chocolate chunks. I cut big chunks so they wouldn't melt and disappear (as expected, I lost the smaller chunks.)

The recipe said to bake for 40-45 minutes but when I checked after half an hour they were definitely done and the edges were almost burned (oops!). I think I need to buy an oven thermometer as this often happens and I am not convinced of the accuracy of my oven temperature. I definitely need to buy a new tin for traybakes as the one I used was too big so the mixture spread so some of the brownies were thinner than I would have liked.

I was worried that the brownies would be dry, especially as I used less than the extortionate amount of chocolate the recipe called for (not deliberate, I hasten to add, just an error in not taking the recipe when buying ingredients). But in fact they were very moist without being so gooey that they lost all structure.

I must admit that I was a little unsure about this recipes. Not that I doubt Mary is any way but I am always a little hesitant when it comes to brownie recipes. However, they are delicious and are disappearing quickly for a flat that it supposedly on a diet..... I will definitely be repeating this recipe with the full amount of chocolate!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake

This a quick post as I'm tryign to make the deadline for this week's WeeklyBakeOff. What you should probably understand is that cheesecakes are kind of my 'thing'. They are one of the first things I started to bake and I've always used the same recipe which uses soured cream as well as cream cheese and whisks the egg whites into stiff peaks. It is by no means fool proof and often cracks but produces a deliciously light cheesecake. So I wasn't sure whether to enter this week but I had cream cheese in the fridge and chocolate left over from the bake off so I thought I'd give it a go.

I must admit that, true to form, I adapted the recipe to avoid buying extra ingredients. Cocoa powder was added to plain digestives as I didn't have chocolate ones. In hindsight I wish I'd just used the plain biscuits as I think the cocoa made the base bit softer. The recipe called for plain chocolate but I wanted to use up the leftover white and milk chocolate I had so I used that and added a bit of cocoa powder for a darker look and an extra chocolatey flavour. Also, some of the cream cheese I used was low fat but it seemed to work, the cake was a bit cracked but I was fairly pleased with it.

As you can see I ended up with a layer of the layer of the plain cheesecake and a chocolate so it could have done with being mixed up a bit better but I was worried about mixing it together too much and losing the ripple look. The cake was nice and disappeared quickly when I took it into the office; it was a thick and rich cheesecake and although it was tasty it won't be taking over from my trusty recipe.

I'm thinking of starting a quest for the ultimate cheesecake so let me know if you have a good recipe and I'll out it to a blind tasting test :)

The Great Brixton Bake Off

So the task finally arrived and I was the project manager. I was scared and excited for my first market; aware that a lot of the stalls would be professionals I was a bit concerned that no-one would buy any of my cakes and I would be left with hundreds of cakes and a big belly! Although preparations had been going on for quite some time (getting insurance and hygeine certificates and sourcing bags, stamps, ingedients etc.) with our freezer dead the actual baking was all to be done the day before the bake off.

Knowing that I had a big task ahead of me (and that our landlord was due to make an inspection) my day off began early with a good breakfast and cleaning the flat (people who saw the state of it later that night/the next morning might say this was pointless but I wanted to start on a clean slate. And there was the Landord!). All in all I would say that I a) underestimated how long everything would take; b) was way too relaxed about it all at the start of the day; c) need more than one of each size cake tin.

By the time by sister arrived to help at about 8 o'clock it was clear that I wasn't going to get much sleep. Having eaten a lot of cake mix but no meal since breakfast (and the kitchen obviously being out of bounds for anything other than cake baking!) we ordered a takeaway and Kate set to work on stamping my bags and making cake stands.

In the end I got no sleep and my sister woke up at 7am to find me still in the kitchen, bleary eyed and covered in icing sugar! All hands were on deck to set up the stall and I was quite pleased with it in the end. It certainly wasn't as jam packed with cake as some stalls but I felt it had plenty of personal touches :)

Despite the rain (which was relentless) Brixton out did itself with it's impressive turn out and I enjoyed my first venture into market trading! But about the cakes.........

After the bacon cake being such a hit last week, I decided to release it to the public! I won't write much as I've already blogged about this but I did use more bacon this time and it only improved this indulgent cake! Almost everyone passing my stall did a double take and were reluctant at first but once I'd put out some samples I won most people over (apart from some unsuspecting vegetarians eager for free cake!)

Next up, my bestseller: Rum and ginger beer cupcakes. These were ginger beer cupcakes (crucially made with ginger beer aswell as ground ginger) topped with a rum and lime frosting and decorated with a slice of lime. I had made the frosting before but this development was inspired by one of my favourite drinks and proved very popular! I want to experiment more with boozy cupcakes as I think they are good for celebrations and always go down well :)

I had planned to adapt my mum's carrot cake recipe into cupcakes and top with cream cheese icing and a walnut. I am probably biased but I think my mum's carrot cake is the best ever (and I have tasted many!) - the secret is that it has banana in it which makes a very moist cake. You usually can't taste the banana but I think the bananas I used were a bit too big and the taste was quite distinctive so these became carrot and banana cupcakes but I still managed to sell out!

Lastly I made bigger versions of the filled shortbread I have made several times. These are made by cutting two circles of shortbread dough, putting chocolate/a dollop of chocolate ganache/jam/caramel (this time I went with milk chooclate, white chocolate and raspberry jam) on one circle then placing the other on top and moulding so that the edges are sealed. These were tasty and one woman bought nearly all my raspberry ones but I think I prefer making the little dainty ones.

Unfortunately in the manic early morning rush, I forgot my camera so I don't have as many picture as I would like - especially of the cakes. By the time I started packing up at about 4pm my feet were killing me and I realised that I hadn't sat down for 17 hours! Despite the comatose state I was in by the end, it was a great experience and I'm hoping to do another market soon - there are definitely a few things I would do differently:
1. Sleep!
2. Take my camera
3. I would really like to have plastic pods or boxes for my cupcakes but this is an added expense.....
4. Meet more of the other stallholders - for some reason I was quite nervous of leaving my stall!
5. Have some savoury options on offer for those without a sweet tooth

The day also had a competition element and the judging panel, which included Levi Roots, the mayor of Lambeth and Victor Scalzo of Patisserie Valerie visited each stall and tasted their offerings. Unfortunately Levi doesn't eat bacon but he tucked into my rum and ginger beer cupcakes and overall they seemed to enjoy my unusual flavours! I want to say a huge well done to all the winners:

Overall winner: Anna Smith Bakes
Cakes: Mahalias Kitchen
Cupcakes: The Carob Pod
Biscuits and Bites: Lillyput
Fruit Pies: Anna Smith Bakes
Bread: Pistachio Rose

A round up of the market can be found here: and GreenBeanLondon's film of the event features my horrendous voice (it really is horrednous, I maintain that is not my voice and I put on a posh voice when I'm nervous. If it makes you want to punch me, I feel the same but please look past that!)