Month: April 2013

Disco birthday cake

Jo's 18th Birthday disco cakeThis is the cake I made for the lovely Jo’s 18th birthday last month.

When we sat down to chat about the design we talked about what she’s into. She’s really musical and likes to go out clubbing and her party had a black, white and red theme so this is the design I came up with.


18th Birthday cake

Jo wanted the cake to be stacked with music notes on the top layer with dancers on the bottom tier. I decided that the best way to get uniformed notes was to get a patchwork cutter. Luckily I found this disco themed one with both dancers and music notes in the set. Result!

These Disco Dancers –Patchwork Cutters are  available from Amazon 


18th Birthday cake

The ’18’ on the top was easy to position. The rest… not so much!
18th Birthday cake

I used sugarpaste to cut out the decorations but really should have used flower paste as it’s firmer and easier to handle. I had to cut out the notes and dancers and leave them for 10 minutes to dry and harden up enough to be handled.

18th Birthday cake

The dancers! Well, let’s just say they tried to dance right off the cake! I found that every time I tried to pick them up they moved in a different direction or broke. In the end I cut them out onto small sheets of silicon paper and dampened them a little on the back then positioned the bottom of the paper against the cake and gently stood the dancers up, pressing from the bottom up. That did the trick!

I know from experience that once you mark a white cake with a black decoration it’s really hard to clean it up. For some reason black sugarpaste is just super sticky – way more than any other pre-coloured sugarpaste.


I was really happy with how this cake turned out. I like the way the silhouette of the dancers sits over the thick ribbon. I will definitely be using that technique again.



How to stack a square cake

Square stacked cake

I wish I had a £1 for every time Tim walked into the kitchen and told me that my cake wasn’t straight! It’s one of those things that I just can’t see. You should see the shelves in my house! If left to me they would all be wonky. I can’t even put the oven shelves back into the oven horizontally! So stacking a cake doesn’t come easily to me! There I said it.

Over the years I have learnt how to improve my technique and get a good result but it’s still work in progress. I kind of go with the thinking that once the cake is finished and decorated a few degrees off (as that is all it usually is) won’t show. What do you think? This is the last stacked cake I made. It was for my lovely friends daughters birthday. More on that in the next post.


How to stack a square cakeStacking a square cake

Start with your cakes leveled, buttercreamed and covered in sugarpaste. This is the trick. If you start with a straight cake your stacking will be a doddle! I use the side scraper (as shown in this post) to get the buttercream sides straight and at 90º angles which helps a lot. Then use spacers to get the sugarpaste rolled out to the same thickness.


Stacking a square cake

Use a small amount of Royal icing in the centre of your cake board to secure the first cake in place.


measure the cake in place

Once the cake is in place check that it is central using a tape measure or ruler. Give it a gentle push till you are happy.


Stacking a square cake

If you need to move the cake to reposition it do so soon after covering it as the sugarpaste will still be soft and any pushing and prodding can be removed with a cake smoother.


Stacking a square cake

Insert dowling posts (I use Plastic Cake Dowels  but you can still get wooden Dowels too) Try to push them in as vertically as possible making sure you leave enough space between them to give support to the cake to be stacked but not so far that they will be outside of the size of the next layer.


Stacking a square cake

Mark each dowel where it hits the sugarpaste then carefully remove it. Cut the dowel at that mark. I use scissors and work my way around the post. Be careful that the last snip doesn’t send your dowel careering off in the direction of the cake! Been there. Done that!



How to stack a square cake

Re- insert the dowels into the cake. They should be just visible from the top, so the next cake can sit comfortably on them without squishing the base cake. It’s okay if they sit in the sugarpaste a little.  The dowels are really important when stacking heavy cakes or lots of tiers. Not only does it give you a secure stack but it prevents the base cake from becoming squished down and solid. I’ve had that happen before when I  made a 6 layer rainbow cake from Madeira cake. The bottom two layers were only about 1″ thick at the start and by the time the cake was cut they were half that size! Sugarpaste is heavy! I should have put a thin cake board in between layers 3 and 4 and used dowels.


How to stack a square cake

Add a small amount of Royal icing over each dowel and add your next cake.


How to stack a square cake

As with the first tier, check that the cake is central using a measuring tape then smooth out any finger prints. The Royal icing will hold the cake in position.


gap cake

Sometimes there is a little gap between the layers if the cake isn’t perfectly flat or the dowels stick out too much at one point. You can correct and hide this with small rolls of sugarpaste or you can pipe Royal icing into the gap. If you are adding ribbon and it will be hidden then I wouldn’t do anything. A ribbon the same colour as the icing will hide a multitude of sins.


How to stack a square cake

To check if your cake is straight use a spirit level (one just for cake decorating- I have this pink one as I know Tim won’t nick it!) I place a scraper on the top of the cake to prevent it leaving too many marks. If it’s way off being straight then you can carefully lift the cake- as long as the Royal icing underneath it is still wet, and place a small ball off sugarpaste underneath the board until it is level. Again, you can pipe white icing into the gap between the base cake and the cake board of the next tier.


How to stack a square cakeFinally add ribbon to the cake securing it in place at the back with a small amount of Royal icing. Try not to touch it while that Royal icing is drying as it is a bit temperamental!

To add ribbon to the cake board I use a Pritt stick all the way around the board.





Oaty Apple crumble with chocolate chips recipe

Oaty Apple crumble recipe

Hands up who still has some Easter Eggs left?

No? Well we do. In fact we have tons. (Thanks M&S!)

I hate to waste chocolate I mean who doesn’t right? So when it comes to those little flaky crumbs at the bottom of the box I like to find a recipe to use them up with. This year it was this Oaty Apple crumble.

I decided that I would make mini crumbles for the kids and a small adult sized one for me and Tim and anyone else who happened to pop round, but the ingredients would have made one nice big crumble. It’s also worth knowing that I like there to be a lot of topping and a good amount of fruit – but not too much, so if you love lots of filling you should add a few extra apples. The choice is yours!

Oaty apple crumble with chocolate chips


  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 50g Demerara sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter – cold and cubed
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 500g apples – I used up gala apples but you can always use any variety.
  • 50g chocolate – chips or broken up pieces of Easter Egg- anything goes!


How to make an Oaty Apple Crumble 

  1. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160 fan). 
  2. Peel and core your apples then chop them into nice small cubes.
  3. Place 10g of butter in a frying pan and add the apple. Stir every now and then to make sure the apple is cooking evenly for 5 minutes. You don’t want the apple to get too squishy, just cooked on the outside edge.
  4. After 5 minutes place the cooked apple in your baking dish and set aside to cool.
  5. To make the topping: In a bowl mix the flour and sugars together then add the butter.
  6. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers until it looks like bread crumbs.
  7. Add the porridge oats and mix well. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes (optional)
  8. Sprinkle the chocolate onto the apple then cover with the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is a delicious golden colour.
  10. Serve straight away with custard or ice cream.

Top tips for making this crumble.

The topping for this crumble is incredible moreish and really easy to make but I did learn a few lessons in my trial runs.

  • The first time I baked this desert the chocolate chips were on the crumble and it got a bit burnt. The second time I made it I added the choc chips to the cooled apple before I added the crumble topping. This vastly improved the taste and texture. It also gives a nice surprise to guests as you can’t see the chocolateyness lurking inside!
  • I added milk chocolate pieces to this crumble but you can use white or dark too. One time (unfortunately when I was going to my in -laws for dinner!Sorry!!!)  I used pieces from an orange infused dark chocolate egg which really  didn’t work. The orange flavour just took over the whole dish.  So the key is to keep it simple. Plain old chocolate is best.
  • Don’t add more than 50g of chocolate as it becomes too sweet and spoils the crumble if you add more. 
  • If you like your crumble to have lots of nice big lumps make the topping ahead and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes. The clusters will then stay together, unless you crumble them with your fingers. 

Oaty apple crumble recipeenjoy! 

Strawberry Tarts from ‘Cook It, step by step’

Strawberry tarts- 'Cook it'Yesterday I reviewed the kids cook book Cook It , Step by Step by Dk  and today I am thrilled to be able to share a recipe extract straight from the book with you all.  How good do these Strawberry tarts look? Kids will love to make them.


Strawberry tarts recipe

These pretty pastries taste as good as they look! You can also make them with other types of soft fruit.


• 225g (8oz) ready-made shortcrust pastry

• 150g (51/2 oz) mascarpone cheese

• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract •

2 tbsp icing sugar

• 175g (6oz) strawberries or other soft fruit

• 4 tbsp redcurrant jelly •

15ml (1 tbsp) water


Preheat the oven to 200 ̊C (400 ̊F/Gas 6). Thinly roll out the pastry, then using the fluted cutter, cut out 8 circles. Press the pastry circles into a bun tin.

Strawberry tarts- 'Cook it'

Line the cases with baking parchment and fill them with dried beans. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove the beans. Return to the oven for 3 minutes. Cool in the tin

Strawberry tarts

Transfer the cases to a cooling rack. Place the cheese and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Sift over the icing sugar, then beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Strawberry tarts- 'Cook it'

Place the strawberries on a chopping board. Remove the green stalks from the strawberries. Then use a knife to cut them in half or quarters if they are large.

Strawberry tarts- 'Cook it'

When the pastry cases are completely cool, use a teaspoon to fill them with the mascarpone and vanilla mixture. Arrange the strawberries over the top.

Strawberry tarts

Place the redcurrant jelly in a small pan with the water and cook over a low heat, stirring until the jelly has dissolved. Brush this over the strawberries.

Strawberry tarts



Cook it, step by step – book review

COOK IT book review



Every now and again I come across a kids cook book that is really excellent.Cook It Step by Step – Learn to cook 100 easy recipes’ by Dorling Kindersley is that kind of a book.  It’s got lots of fabulous meal ideas, uses ‘grown up’ flavours and original ideas – not the usual cheesy jacket potatoes and vegetable skewers, and it’s bursting with recipes you’ll want to try yourself let alone let the kids have a go at. It’s the perfect find for any school holiday entertainment.


So what’s in this book

Let me start by saying that this book isn’t for little kids. It’s aimed at older kids (and by that I mean 7 year olds upwards) There’s no ‘ask an adult for help’ plastered all over each cooked recipe, just a simple warning sign, so I think it’s good for young teens too. Beau, who’s 9, couldn’t put it down and has flicked through every page whilst eating her breakfast for a whole week. My sister (who is a little older than 9 !!!!!) also couldn’t put it down.

As you would expect it’s packed full of helpful advice on healthy eating, kitchen hygiene, what equipment you’ll need, and most importantly a really easy to follow ‘ways to cook’ section with everything from how to chop and peel to bake and roast. All the fundamentals for an inquisitive young mind.

Ways to cook, Dorling Kindersley

The chapters

Breakfast bites

Eggy bread, how to cook an egg( four ways), smoothie and fruit bar recipes. Not a boring cereal in sight!


Light bites

Some of the recipes in this section are the kind of ‘throw it all together and it will taste great’ variety, but as a young cook you need to learn how to do this,  so this has some great, simple dishes, picnic and tuna salads, soups and more difficult breads and pizza dough.

Cook book


Main meals

Simple dishes like hotpots and pasta feature here with every kids fave – lasagna, but a vegetable one. Jambalaya (a Cajun rice dish) looks mouth-wateringly good as do the fish cakes. I love the recipe for BBQ chicken in this chapter, but it’s the slow roasted tomatoes from the ‘Tomato and aubergine layers’ that I made first. I can’t stand aubergine – it’s a texture thing – but I love, love, love tomatoes, even when they take 2-3 hours in the oven!  (n.b. please note that when it says ‘cook tomatoes for 2-3 hours at a low temperature’ don’t rush it like I did with a high temp. You end up with very burnt – although not too bad tasting toms!)


Sweet things

Now we’re talking! Strawberry tarts, four ways with cookies, brownies and fridge cake all look delish but it’s the meringue crowns that caught my eye. Such a clever idea.

Meringue crowns

Other chapters include:-

Planning a party, a three course meal and picnic time.


What I like about the book

As well as being a great cook book for kids, it’s got a fantastic range of recipes for adding a bit of diversity to their diets- maybe even making them a little braver in their choices. I don’t know what other kids are like but if mine make or bake food they are ten times more likely to eat it. It’s also great for giving us mum’s some inspiration on what to cook at tea time. I love that!

Diversity aside – there are also all the basic recipes – roast chicken, burgers, beef pasta (or spag bol to you and me!) and chilli con carne , all of which are good for kids to learn know how to make.

The layout throughout is really clear and the tone is perfect – not at all condescending and not at all confusing. I think we’ll be using this one for a long time to come.

Cook It Step by step by Dorling Kindersley available from 



p.s. I just want to apologise for the dark grey/blueness of the photos in this post. It just goes to show you how dull the weather has been here in the UK – and that I have absolutely no idea how to work my camera! I really do need to sort that out! 



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