Month: April 2013

Interview with the experts: Lucy Young

Lucy YoungI was lucky enough to interview Lucy Young a couple of weeks ago for Lucy has been Mary Berry’s right hand girl for over 23 years, testing recipes and writing books with her, as well as writing a few of her own including Secrets From A Country Kitchen: Over 100 Contemporary Recipes for Conventional Ovens and Agas and The Secrets of Aga Cakes.





Her latest book ‘Mary Berry and Lucy Young –  At Home‘ by BBC Books, is fantastic and bursting with great ideas and as you would expect delicious cakes! Here’s how the interview went……

Baking with Lucy Young

How did you get into cooking and baking?

At 18 I went to Corden Bleu college to do training as I enjoyed cooking at home, two years later I was lucky enough to get my job with Mary Berry as her assistant.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena?

Anyone who thinks of the person they are writing for, it is so important when writing a book to reach everyone, not be too specialized….. James Martin and Nigel Slater are wonderful

How did you come to work with Mary Berry?

I live fairly locally to Mary and my mother heard through a friend of a friend that Mary was looking for an assistant, I had completed my training and worked elsewhere for a few years and jumped at the chance when I heard …. I went for an interview at Mary’s home, that was 23 years ago and I am still working with her!

What do you do for fun/ to relax ?

At home I love gardening, my husband and I have a little Victorian house and the garden needs a lot of work so that’s the way I relax at the moment or by the sea if we get the chance to go away to Devon for the weekend, as soon as I see the sea I relax.

Where is your favorite place to go out to eat?

I love pubs, we have some great local pubs around us, which I prefer to go to than restaurants which try too hard. For tea Fortnum and Mason is divine, makes me all nostalgic and romantic !

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

Set of scales, it is so important especially when baking that the measurements are accurate.

What is the last item you bought for your home?

A wood burning stove for our kitchen its next to our little sofa so cosy too. I love buying things for our home, we have renovated our house over the past year and I love the combination of old and new, I have an 18th century French mirror next to  chrome modern station clock.

What’s your favorite meal?

Fresh in season asparagus or Beef Wellington followed by Lemon Meringue Pie

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Guilty food pleasure would be a fresh homemade burger and chips, because I do not cook this type of food it is a guilty treat when I go to the pub.

How long did  ‘At Home’ take to write?

About a year while doing other work too, but testing and writing from start to finish is about a year.

 How do you approach a new book?

When starting a book we break the book into chapters and work our way through it together. We discuss each recipe and then have a days testing together, I then type it up for us to discuss further, we test it again making tweaks here and there. When the whole book is written and we are both happy, I send it off to the publishers and then the editing, proofs and photography start… the book comes together as if by magic by the publishers. Seeing the completed book, with colour photos the jacket and design for the first time is always very exciting, however many books we have done.

How do you test the recipes

For a new book we start from scratch, so we think what can be do with a chicken breast or new cake recipe. We get inspiration from eating out, our friends and new ingredients which are available which is fun to try new ideas.

Were there any major disasters when working on the book?

Disasters not really but we did get in a muddle with a chocolate cake, different techniques mean the ingredients react differently, 5 cakes later and the chocolate cake is perfect, but at stage 3 we were a little worried it wasn’t going to be perfect ! Mary never gives up and will get up at dawn to get a recipe perfect.

What is your favorite recipe in the book?

Red pepper and fennel pissaladiere and mini banoffi pies

(Emma here- The recipe for Lucy’s Mini Banoffee pies is coming to a cake blog near you tomorrow!)

Why is it so important to weigh your ingredients carefully?

Baking is a science so if the quantities are not accurate the cake will fail.

What is your best baking advice/tip?

Keep it simple, especially if slightly nervous about cooking, do not over challenge yourself, its only food and should be fun and enjoyable and of course follow a good recipe.

What do you always have in your store cupboard?

Tomato passata, caster sugar, self raising flour and baking powder

What should the first cake a novice baker attempts be?

A simple cake with a short cooking time…… fairy cakes or a traybake

What’s next on the Lucy Young to do list?

I work with Mary Berry pretty much full time organizing her working life, she is filming the new series of the Great British Bake Off at the moment so that is keeping us both busy. We are also doing another Mary Berry book to go with a new TV series which we will film this summer, at her home. I hope to do another book too but maybe next year, this year is a bit full already ! I just love my job and am very lucky to share it with lovely people.

Lucy Young with Mary Berry 


5 things I learnt making this 40th Birthday Rainbow cake

Emma B

This is my friend Emma. Have I mentioned that in my adult life I am surrounded by Emmas? This Emma is a mum from Beau’s year but in Darcey there are three of us Emma Mums. When I used to work at Woman and Home magazine there were 6 working in the office at one time – with freelancers! That’s where the EmmaMT comes from. How else do you distinguish between us all!

Anyway back to the cake! This is probably one of the biggest cakes I’ve made. I mean, I’ve stacked cakes before but for one cake this is the biggest. I learnt quite a few lessons making it too, so I thought I would share my top tips with you.

1. Bake one cake at a time

Rainbow cake

Making up one 8″ Madeira cake mix for a 10″ tin will give a really great depth to each layer. I also discovered that if I bake each cake with a sheet of silicon paper loosely placed over the top of the tin the cake comes out completely flat. And I mean completely! No raised, cracked, doming and no excess to cut off.

I’ve since covered all my Madeira cakes with silicon paper whilst baking and they have all come out nice and flat. This makes me very happy!

2. Use a cake ruler to get the sides straight

rainbow cake tips

Remember the side scraper I talked about last year? Well, that has become one of my most valuable tools. When it came to covering this cake in buttercream I did it in two stages so that I was sure it was straight. I used the side scraper on each 3/4 layers when I did the crumb coating but when it came to stacking all the cakes together the scraper wasn’t tall enough so, I used a pink cake ruler.

The cake ruler has one straight side and one serated (I must use that serated side for something one day!) It’s pretty sturdy for a piece of plastic and did a great job of making sure the whole cake was smooth and the sides were at a 90º angle. I simply added a thin layer of buttercream to the crumb coating then stood the ruler along the side of the cake and carefully scraped around the side and voila! One tall covered cake!

n.b. I had to remove a shelf in my fridge to get the cake in to chill the buttercream! 

3. You can have any colour cake 

Rainbow cake

I played around with getting the icing for this cake the right colour. Emma showed me her colour scheme and I had a drop of her nail varnish for the big night to match it to. That was a first! Teal is a pretty difficult color to match and I had nightmares that when I delivered the cake I was going to find that it was too dark/ too green/ or just plain wrong – but in the end it was perfect!  I mixed food colours in turquoise and mint green to get the end result.

When mixing up a strong shade like this it’s a good idea to colour your sugarpaste ahead. Not only will you know you’re happy with the colour, but if you colour the sugarpaste the day before you cover your cake it will be less sticky and more steadfast- or in other words your hands won’t go teal!

Another top tip is to make sure your sugarpaste is pretty thick when you roll it out so when you lift it over the cake any stretching will be hidden and won’t result in a tear. It also means that you’ll be able to smooth it really easily.

Rainbow cake

4. You can make really gold flowers


These were the first gold flowers I had ever made and I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get such a shiny, lustre result. The way I did it was by colouring my white modeling paste in Autumn leaf food colouring paste. I then made the flowers and used a gold lustre powder mixed with a little rejeunvanator liquid and painted them all over. I also painted my fingers and most of my kitchen table! Once dry the roses were just as I wanted them. When wet they were a sticky mess that makes everything go gold! So you have been warned. Put the flowers somewhere where you can paint them and move them without actually having to touch them.

I left them to dry overnight.

5. Don’t overstack the cakes!


I made these layers individually, colouring the cake mix before it went into the oven. Then I made sure that each layer was the same depth. The trouble is that cakes are quite heavy and sugarpaste is REALLY heavy so the cakes on the bottom levels became a little compacted. It didn’t effect the taste – just the look.

Next time I will add a thin board inbetween the middle layers with dowels to hold the weight of the top layers. That way they won’t get squished!

Rainbow cake

So that’s my top tips with this tall rainbow cake. If you have any tips then please leave me a comment below and let me know how you decorate cake. Every little tip makes the decorating so much more fun. and it’s great to share the knowledge, don’t you think?


Baby cookies

baby 2

I’ve been wanting to practice my cookie icing skills recently and there’s no better time than when there’s the arrival of a new baby to celebrate. In fact there were four babies within the space of a week at Easter!  I made these for two of my friends who obviously had boys. One was Benjamin and one Harry, so I added B’s and H’s to make them a touch more personal.
baby 3

The cookies were made from Vanilla Cookie dough (recipe below) and I used the technique as described by Ruth Clemens from The Pink Whisk to get the consistency of the Royal icing just right. She says that you make the Royal icing till it forms a ribbon trail. Lift your spoon up and let one of those ribbons drop across the middle of the bowl and count how long it takes to completely disappear. It should be 10 seconds. You can see the video here. This was really helpful to me as I never seemed to be able to get the consistency of the Royal icing quite right and I also always had different results. This way the end result is always the same.

baby 1

Vanilla Cookie recipe

(Makes around 20 biscuits)

  • 200g unsalted butter- at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1 egg – at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the cookies

  1. Place the butter in a bowl. Add the sugar, flour, egg and vanilla essence.
  2. Mix all the ingredients by hand. I always mix biscuits by hand as the warmth from your hands means that it’s all being blended really well and for some reason they taste much better than when mixed with a machine. You can always start the mixing with a wooden spoon if you don’t like gloopy hands.
  3. Be careful not to overmix biscuit dough. It will not only become tough, but the biscuits will spread more when baked and we want them to keep their shape perfectly.
  4. Once it is nearly all blended I turn the dough out onto the worktop and knead it till it all holds together nicely.
  5. Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the flour to do it’s stuff. Without chilling the cookie shapes will definitely contort when baked.
  6. Remove from the fridge and knead a little on a lightly floured surface. Roll out using spacing sticks to ensure that your biscuits are all the same thickness.
  7. Cut out the cookies then remove the excess first. This way you can pick up the biscuit without denting it.
  8. Place on a baking tray lined with silicon paper and pop back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. This ensures the cookies bake slowly and don’t spread. It’s the easiest way to make sure each design is exactly the same.
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 160°C then bake for 12 minutes or until the biscuits start to brown on the edges
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Royal Icing recipe

  • 3 heaped tsp of  Meri White  (dried egg white substitute available from cake decorating shops and Amazon)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 300g icing sugar

How to make Royal icing

  1. Start by dissolving the Meriwhite in the water in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Add the icing sugar and mix till combined. You will need to scrape down any sugar that has stuck to the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix for around 10 minutes until the icing sugar is smooth and glossy.
  3. Royal icing dries out really quickly so pop it in an air tight container as soon as it’s ready.
  4. Add colour with a toothpick then fill your piping bag. Make sure you make enough to line and fill your cookies. It’s hard to match a colour if you run out.

How to decorate your cookies

  1. Pipe and outline on each cookie. This should be the same colour as the one you will fill it with so for the baby bottle the bottom should be white and the teat part yellow.
  2. Leave the outline to dry for around  ½ an hour. This will give it a chance to set and you’ll be able to handle the cookie much easier. I damaged loads of the outlines as I handled them too soon.
  3. Add a drop or two of water to the royal icing mix to make it a bit more runny and fill in the cookie. If there are any bubbles pop them now with a toothpick. Leave to dry completely. This may take an hour. It may take longer.
  4. Once completely dry pipe an outline on each cookie and any extra details like measurements on the bottles and details on the baby grow. Again, leave to dry.
  5. These cookies will last a week in an air tight container so bake and decorate on one day so you can give them as a gift and they will last a bit longer.


Sultana scone recipe – the easy way

Sultana scone recipe

What is it about scones that just makes your mouth water? I’m a bit addicted to them at the moment- especially when they are still warm from the oven. A friend of mine mentioned a photo of some cheese scones I put on Instagram (follow me here) a few days ago and it made me want to bake them all over again. I just couldn’t get them out of my mind.

I know that lots of people have difficulties baking scones but let me promise you once you know the basics they are a complete doddle . You just have to keep it simple and don’t over mix.  

Sultana scone recipe



Sultana scone recipe

(Makes 8 large-12 small scones)

  • 225g Self raising flour
  • 55g butter- straight out of the fridge
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 120g sultanas
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg for egg washing – beaten


How to make Sultana Scones

The best thing about scones is that you can make them without any preparation. The butter doesn’t have to be at room temperature and the oven will get hot enough by the time you’ve made them.

  1. Line a baking sheet with silicon paper and heat your oven to 220ºC(200 fan)
  2. In a bowl measure out the flour and butter and rub together with your fingers till you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and sultanas.
  4. Make a well in the flour and pour the milk into the centre. Now, this is the most important part of making scones. Don’t over mix. It’s the number one reason that they come out heavy. Just use a knife to blend all the ingredients together until there is no dry flour left. The mixture may be quite sticky. Another top tip is to bake them straight away. Don’t leave the dough sitting around. the quicker they go into the oven the more delish they will be.
  5. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead just to combine. You can use a rolling pin but I think this bashes too much air out. I just squadge it down with my hands till it’s nice and flat and kind of even.
  6. Use a circle cutter to cut out as many scones as you can. The key is to lift the cutter straight up off of the scone at without twisting it.  This will mean it bakes in an upwards direction and not twist and contort as it’s rising making a nice neat scone- hopefully!
  7. Place the scones on the baking tray and give them a generous brush of egg wash.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 14-18 minutes or until they start to brown. Don’t wait till they are very golden as they will over bake from the bottom.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack and eat when they are still warm. They taste amazing with a big dollop of strawberry jam.

Sultana scone recipe


My stash from Cake International

My Cake International purchases


How to you approach an exhibition where you are bombarded with new ideas and great looking products that you just have to have all around you?

I tend to have an allocated budget (that quite often goes out of the window when I see that last great thing!) For Cake International I tried to stick to around £50. I tend to find that if I spend more than that the chances of actually using my new tool goes out the window. It also means that I have to really want it to part with my cash.

So what did I splash my cash on? I’ll show you….


The Silicon Mat


This mat although made from Silicon actually feels more like rubber. It’s got a bit more give in it and is super slippy when it comes to rolling out pastry. I can’t wait to give it a go on sugarpaste.

It’s easy to wash (and dry as it’s a bit smaller than my Ikea one)  and it also seems to stick to the work surface a lot better. I am going to make a big effort not to cut out any sugarpaste decorations on this one as that’s the number one way I cut holes my mats!

Cake International buys


The Polka Dotter


These are a really new tool (or at least I haven’t seen them before) that you use to mark out dots in sugarpaste evenly around the edge of a cake. The top one marks out the spacing so you can have a thin or thick ribbon underneath your dots- depending on which way up you use it.  The bottom one allows you to have loads of dots. All you have to do is add a pearl of piped royal icing to each indent or a flower- anything! I can’t wait to have a play with these.

Cake International buys


The acrylic rolling pin


I love my white silicon rolling pin but when I saw these acrylic ones I was intrigued. The man on the stand was telling us that the demonstrators had seen them when he was setting up, bought them and they were everywhere at the show due to their non stick abilities and the fact that they just look so good!  And he was right. Everyone demonstrating did seem to have one! What a sales pitch! I resisted buying the 20″ one and went for the 13″ instead. It’s excellent and really doesn’t stick as much as my other pins. I may be going back for the larger size!

Cake International buys


The Palette knife

£4.60 Rounded cranked palette knife, Amazon

One of the demonstrators used a palette knife to scrape along the back of a patchwork cutter and the modelling paste just seemed to pop out. I have never seen that done before.

I already have a few palette knives but I am of the opinion that you can never have too many so here’s my latest. If you haven’t got one I would highly recommend them. They’re really useful for picking up thin and fragile pieces of sugarpaste- even when they’re stuck to the surface. They’re super thin and bendy at the tip which makes them so versatile. The stand at the show where I bought this one doesn’t sell on line but you can get similar from Amazon.

Cake International buys


Feeding my ribbon obsession

£1 per meter,

I love ribbons. I have a ton so this was a real indulgence for me but I couldn’t walk past this ribbon stand without buying the rulers ribbons at least. I collect wooden rulers – especially folding ones so I was drawn to these designs. I don’t know where I am going to use them. It won’t be on a cake as that is just too much of a waste. Beau has already told me that the pink one would look good on her Monster High doll! Cute aren’t they?

Cake International buys


The biggest benefit of buying at a show is that most of the stands are selling at lower prices than they do on their websites so it balances out the cost of your entry ticket. My only regret is not going back for the litre bottle of Madagascar vanilla extract which was just £20. It’s around £5 for a tiny bottle in the supermarkets but I didn’t want to lug it around the whole show and then I forgot!  Also Mum went back to buy a silicon piping bag which I thought was fab. Oh well, there’s always next year!



Cake International 2013

Yesterday I went to the second ever Cake International show at Excel in London. I have it on good authority that the show has had a 70% increase on last years attendance proving that the baking bug is still alive and strong. And as you walk around the show you can see why.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood opened the show and when my mum and I arrived they were busy doing demonstrations and a Q and A session in the Bakery theatre. Mary looked her lovely self and Paul had a constant cheeky grin on his face. He does make me laugh. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry open Cake International at Excel, London




The show has over 80 exhibitors offering all the latest in sugarcraft, cake decorating and baking supplies, but it’s the very talented cake decorators on these stalls showing how to get different techniques that makes this such a valuable show to attend.  I loved how this decorator showed us ruffles. She also had some cakes entered into the competitions. She’s one talented lady! Cake International 2013



The first area we headed for were the competition cakes. The judges were all in action- as it was the first day and the tables were sectioned off which meant we couldn’t get too close to all the cakes.  There are loads of categories and the criteria is very seriously looked at. If you do one thing incorrectly you can get disqualified. Some must be made of all edible ingredients – no supports or ‘props’, some are allowed to be fake cakes as the judging is on the sugarcrafting talent. The bakers dozen cupcakes are cut open and tasted and judged on that as well as how they look. One judge told us that the children’s cakes are looked at with a sympathetic eye. If a cake made by someone under 12 has a little crack in the sugarpaste “we might turn a blind eye”. To be honest these kids cakes were amazing! I mean they are under 12!!

Cake International 2013
The judges in action


While we were looking at some of the novelty cakes a full size head from a Terminator cake came toppling off it’s shoulders. Someone must have knocked the table it was on to get a closer look. Mum and I have never been so pleased to have been so far away that we knew it wasn’t us who wobbled that table!  A judge had to come over and pick the head up off the floor. Poor Arnie’s sugarpaste nose was all squashed in and dented. We felt so bad for the cake decorator. It must have been devastating to see that your cake had been damaged before it had even been judged.

Cake International 2013
One of the under 12’s cakes


The Cupcakes

The cupcakes in the competition were beautiful and displayed in the most amazing ways.

Cake International 2013

This is the cupcake entry by the ruffle cake decorator lady (I wish I got her name!) She incorporated her cupcakes into this face design which she told us only took 6 hours to do the day before! Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Mmmmm maggots in your cupcake!


Cake International 2013

The display for this Magic Roundabout cupcake entry was brilliant, but why did the judges have to cut poor Dougal in half to taste test… especially with that jam filling in the centre!

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

These tiny models on these cupcakes were amazingly intricate


Cake International 2013

We loved the birds and flowers on these cupcakesCake International 2013


Novelty cakes

The novelty cakes were just amazing. The details that people can achieve is just awe inspiring.

Cake International 2013

I would love to be able to do airbrushing like this!Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

I love the simplicity on the side of this cake.Cake International 2013

Beau asked if this Rocking horse cake actually rocked. It looked so real I almost think it could!

Cake International 2013

That apple is sugarpaste! Amazing!Cake International 2013



Cake International 2013

The detail in this house was outstanding. Just look at the bottles in the room below. Not only is this an amazing thing to make, but the fact that it could be transported without getting broken – like so many others is a feat in itself!


Cake International 2013



Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013


Tiered cakes

The tiered cakes were really beautiful. Some had such simple designs that were so effective, some had really garish colour combinations but in all they were fantastic. 

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013


Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013

Cake International 2013



So, in all it is a pretty great show with tons of interactive workshops, demonstration theatres and lots to buy! The show is on till Sunday 14th April. Visit more information.

Cake International – The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating & Baking Show

ExCeL, London
12-14 April 2013

Ticket Prices:
Adult £14.00
Senior £13.00
Children free if accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket, otherwise £5.00


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
%d bloggers like this: