Month: July 2013

Getting naked… Don’t worry it’s cakes not me!

Image from
Image from

So, have you seen the trend for naked cakes yet? I really love the look of them but they do have a lot of downsides. Firstly there’s no fun with sugarpaste when you make them!  Secondly there’s no sugarpaste to hide any mistakes (including wonky stacking or gaps in fillings). And thirdly……. No, I can’t think of the thirdly! You see I love them. The more uneven, messy and squadgily creamed they are the better I think they look! A friend of mine got married last May and she had a naked Victoria Sponge three tier wedding cake decorated with fresh flowers to match her bouquet and it looked so beautiful.

Here are just a few I have added to my Pinterest boards ‘Bakes I like’. What do you think. Is it a trend that will stick around or do you think it’s a passing phase?


Naked cakes


Naked cake

Naked cakes

Naked Cake



Cherry and marzipan cake with orange blossom syrup and toasted pistachios

On Saturday I posted an interview with the lovely Rebecca Smith, Deputy Food Editor at ‘Delicious’ magazine. After the interview came her amazing cake recipe, but as the page was so long I think some people may have missed it, so here it is again in all it’s glory.

I baked the cake yesterday for a charity tea and cake afternoon my sister held in her garden. It really was delicious, but I LOVE marzipan so I would say that!

Cherry and marzipan cake 

(Taken from the August 2013 issue of Delicious magazine – out now) 

This is a very moist, dense cake – quite middle Eastern in character. It will keep well in a cool place, well wrapped for 3 days and is wonderful served for pudding with a dollop of honey sweetened Greek yogurt.

Cherry marzipan cake
photo:Maja Smend

Serves 12-14

Takes 25 minutes to make, 1 hour 10 -1 hour 20 minutes to cook, plus cooling

Freeze the finished cake without the pistachio topping, well wrapped in cling film for 1 month. Defrost thoroughly, then garnish and serve.

Know how If you’re adding anything heavy to cake batter, (like the cherries and marzipan in this cake) tossing them in flour helps to stop them sinking. Pushing half into the top of the mixture also helps them to stay more evenly spaced.

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 185g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g marzipan, chopped into 1cm square chunks, tossed lightly in flour
  • 300g cherries, stoned, quartered, patted dry and tossed lightly in flour
  • 50g pistachios, toasted
  • icing sugar, to dust

for the syrup

  • juice 1 orange
  • splash orange blossom water
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  1. Heat the oven to 170ºC/fan 150ºC/gas 31/2. Lightly oil and bottom line a 20cm springform cake tin, wrap a doubled up sheet of baking parchment around the outside and tie in place with string. This will protect the sides of the cake while it’s cooking. Set aside. Beat the butter with the sugar and orange zest for 3 to 5 minutes until pale and fluffy, then beat in the orange blossom water.
  2. Beat the eggs in one by one beating well after each addition, then stir through the flour, almonds and baking powder, with a pinch of salt. Stir through half the marzipan pieces and cherries, then transfer to the prepared cake tin and poke in the remaining marzipan and cherries, making sure they’re just covered with cake mix. Place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160ºC/fan 140ºC/gas 3 and bake for a further 60 minutes. Cover the top with a piece of foil after 30 minutes if it’s getting too dark – not before as the cake will sink. It is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
  3. About 5 minutes before the cake has finished cooking, make the drizzle. Place the orange juice and orange blossom water with the sugar in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has melted. When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven, poke holes all over it and drizzle over the syrup. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Make sure the cake isn’t left to cool on the base of its tin or the bottom will be soggy. When ready to serve, roughly chop the pistachios, scatter over the top of the cake and dust with icing sugar.


All that’s left to say is thanks so much to Rebecca for taking the time to do the interview and for sharing this delicious recipe with us (Sorry no ‘Delicious’ pun intended!)


Meet the Expert: Rebecca Smith- Deputy Food Editor at Delicious Magazine

Rebecca Smith - Delicious

I first met Rebecca when she came to work on Woman and Home Magazine. She and the Food Editor, Jane Curran sat opposite me and the Homes team and let me tell you I learnt a thing or two from that dynamic duo. I also got to do a lot of taste testing for them- but nowhere near as much as they had to do – such a hard life! I used to nip down to the test kitchen to ‘heat up my lunch’ but really it was to snag any cakes they had been making and soak up their extensive knowledge. Rebecca has since gone on to Delicious Magazine which I know all you bakers love as much as I do and is now the Deputy Food Editor. Busy times.

It gives me huge pleasure to have Bex as one of my ‘Ask the Experts’ and I know first hand how amazing her recipes are. She really is an expert in all senses of the word. She has such a natural flare for creating easy to follow recipes that taste just amazing. Her gourmet chocolate brownie recipe is the only one I have ever needed and as such it has been featured here on this very blog.  I can’t wait to share with you her Cherry and marzipan cake with orange blossom syrup and toasted pistachios recipe below. But first a little bit about the expert…….

Ask the expert : Rebecca Smith 

How did you get into cooking and baking?

Bizarrely it was a Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes book that I was given when I was still at school. Roald Dahl’s wife had worked with a cook to create some of the recipes from his book and Quentin Blake illustrated them. It’s an incredible cook book for children and the Bruce Bogtrotter chocolate cake was absolutely divine!

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

I have to mention Nigel Slater as I grew up on my mum cooking his recipes – they always work, and they were and are always delicious. My biggest hero at the moment is probably Ottolenghi – I think the effect he’s had on the way people cook and the breadth of ingredients that are widely available now, virtually just by word of mouth, is absolutely astonishing – and he’s solely responsible for the obscene amount of pomegranate molasses we get through in our house. His food is complex, balanced – just unbelievably good and I can’t stop eating it!

What’s your favorite cook?

The book I return to again and again for advice and help with the classics is my Leiths Bible. It has pretty much everything you could need to know about in there and there’s a copy constantly on my desk. Other than that, I go in phases. At the moment I’m salivating over Rick Stein’s  new India book, and before that it was Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. For baking, I love Fiona Cairns’s Bake & Decorate (she’s so effortlessly stylish), and the American baking book Outsider Tart. I also was once fortunate enough to borrow my friend’s copy of The Last Course by Claudia Fleming, the old pastry chef at the Gramercy Tavern in New York. This is the single most beautiful book I’ve ever come across and I made copious notes from it. It’s out of print now and they’re fetching hundreds of pounds on amazon. So if anyone spots one in a charity shop…

How did you come to be at Delicious

I’d been at Woman and Home for three and a half years, and BBC Good Food before that, so when the job came up I went for it immediately – I was really excited at the thought of working in a solely foodie environment and for such a beautiful magazine.

How long have you worked on Delicious

Just over a year – I came after the first May bank holiday last year.

What does your job entail?

We’re a very small team so it’s incredibly diverse. I could be in the kitchen one day testing recipes (either that I’ve written or that we’ve commissioned), food styling on a photo shoot the next or out at a press day. A day at my desk will comprise of working out costings for each issue, liaising with book publishers, responding to reader queries, writing recipes or editing copy, compiling our canny cook section or planning for cover, style or issue meetings.

What’s the best part of your job?

Being able to dream up and cook some fantastic food that you might not have contemplated otherwise. For instance, yesterday I created a dessert based on a Twix bar…it’s pretty good if I say so myself!

What’s the worst part of your job?

The washing up!

Tell me about the Cherry and marzipan cake your sharing from the current issue.

It celebrates our British cherries which are some of the best in the world and only available in the summer. It has some of my favourite things in it – marzipan, pistachios, cherries (obviously) and orange blossom (thank you Ottolenghi). I love cakes that are drizzled in syrup – not only do they keep longer but it means they’re moist enough to be served as a pudding.

 What’s been your most successful cake?

The red velvet cake that was on the delicious. January 2013 cover is probably one of my best. We had amazing feedback about it and making it satisfied my love of big brash American cakes.

Have you had any big baking disasters?

Tons! Though less so in the last few years. Creating cake recipes makes you very aware of how far you can change basic formulas before it goes wrong. My worst was probably a couple of Christmases ago when my parents had a load of people for dinner. I decided to make a pithivier but with pistachios instead of ground almonds and the whole thing exploded in the oven. It wasn’t too bad though, everyone was somewhat merry by the time pudding came around so I scraped it up as best I could and everyone thought it was hilarious.

What do you do for fun?

I’m in a show choir called the Adam Street Singers, and we rehearse every week as well as having socials. Belting out songs after a hard day in the kitchen is an excellent way to relax!

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker?

It depends entirely on my mood!

Where is your favorite place to go out to eat?

Dinner – the Abbeville Kitchen in Clapham – it’s a lovely little neighbourhood restaurant that does absolutely wonderful Med-inspired food.

Lunch – Jose’s on Bermondsey St. A tiny tapas bar owned by the fabulous Jose Pizarro. You go in for a quick lunch and emerge four hours later slightly wobbly.

Tea – For real luxury I love the Lanesborough for afternoon tea. But any of the big hotels are always so much fun and a serious treat.

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

A very sharp chef’s knife. I think my enjoyment of cooking would be significantly reduced if I had to use tiny blunt knives to chop everything. It’s an absolute hassle.

What’s your favorite dinner party meal and dessert?

I love cooking very slowly roasted pork belly. The meat falls apart and the crackling is perfect – everyone always enjoys it and its utterly low maintenance – it just needs a salad and some sort of potato to accompany it. For pudding, affogato with homemade ricciarelli biscuits – for exactly the same reason. It takes no effort, and it’s an immediate crowd pleaser. I don’t hold with doing complicated things for dinner parties. It should be about relaxing with your friends, not sweating in the kitchen while everyone gets drunk on your booze next door.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Where do I start?! Bowls of noodles slathered in Sriracha chilli sauce, Laughing Cow cheese, chunky peanut butter straight from the jar, Haribo tangfastics…actually I’m not really guilty about any of it. Everything in moderation…



How to make a sprinkle cake

Dahlia 2nd birthday cake

So following on from my My top 5 cake disaster tips! Here’s how I made the sprinkle cake before disaster struck!

I wanted the cake to be nice and tall. As it was for Dahlia’s 2nd birthday and she is a pretty, girly little thing,  it had to be pink.  I made four 8″ Madeira cakes to stack with raspberry jam and coloured buttercream. I also wanted it to be a sprinkle cake on the inside too, so I added some sprinkles to the cake mix just before they went into the oven. It didn’t really work out as I had planned. I put in 55g (which is one entire pot) but they didn’t really show up very well when the cake was cut. I think next time I will put in 110g so it’s super colourful inside. The good thing about adding sprinkles to the cake mix is that they are sugar so they just melt into the sponge.


The Madeira cake recipe 

(Makes four  8″ round cakes)

For the cakes

  • 150g butter – at room temperature
  • 150g margarine ( I use Flora)
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs (large and at room temperature. Lightly whisked)
  • 450g Plain flour – sieved
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tbsp hot water
  • 50-100g sprinkles
  1. Grease and line your baking tins. If you need to bake in two goes ( 2 cake layers at a time) only mix up enough ingredients to bake two cakes. Don’t have cake mix sitting around waiting for the first cake tins be become free. The cake mix will lose air and the cakes won’t rise as much as they should. 
  2. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC Fan)
  3. Mix the butter and margarine together well then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. This will take 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg a little at a time until it’s combined. If it starts to curdle add a spoonful of the flour.
  5. Add the vanilla essence.
  6. Add the flour (with the baking powder) in three batches alternating with the hot water. I’ve just discovered this neat little trick. It makes the cakes more moist and they will have fewer holes in the sponge compared to adding all the flour then all the water. Add sprinkles and mix.
  7. Pour cake mix into each cake tin. In order to keep the cakes the same depth once baked aim for 350g of cake mix in each tin.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake comes away from the sides and a light press in the centre of the cake springs back instantly.
  9. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. If storing overnight, once cool wrap your cakes in clingfilm but don’t stack them directly on top of each other as they may stick together.


For the buttercream decorations

  • ½ Jar of seedless raspberry jam
  • 500g butter- at room temperature (President butter tastes best)
  • 1kg icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • pink food colour
  • sprinkles to scatter – (I used around  100-150g)
  1. Place the butter in a mixing bowl then sieve the icing sugar over the top. I place a tea towel carefully over the mixer (make sure it is safe guys!) so that the puffs of icing sugar don’t coat my whole kitchen. Once it’s combined add the vanilla essence and mix again. If it’s too thick you can add a little milk to soften it. 
  2. Add a little pink food colouring at a time till you get the desired colour

Decorating the Sprinkle cake 

Sprinkle birthday cake

Heat up the raspberry jam in a microwaveable dish for a few seconds at a time until it is nice and runny.  Use a silicon pastry brush to cover the whole of the first layer of cake. Leave the cake to cool a bit – otherwise it will melt the buttercream and your next layer will slide off.

Take the second cake layer and smoother it with buttercream then position it buttercream side down over the jam. Repeat until you have done all layers.

Sprinkle birthday cake

Give the whole cake a crumb coat. This is the first coating of buttercream which seals in any crumbs in and hides any lines in the cake lauers. It doesn’t have to be perfect but the neater it is now the better your top coat will be. I didn’t cover the top as I was going to roll the cake in sprinkles if I didn’t like the initial effect and I would have needed to handle the top if that was the case.

Pop the cake in the fridge to firm up for at least 20 minutes.


Sprinkle birthday cake

Give the cake a second ‘top coat’ of buttercream. This is the one that you want to be as straight and smooth as possible. I use a spatula to add the buttercream then use a side scraper to make sure it’s straight.


Sprinkle birthday cake

A smoother is the perfect tool to drag around the cake to get a smooth finish.


Sprinkle birthday cake

I put the cake on a cakestand (because I am crazy- if you haven’t read why you can do so here!)  And prepared to add the sprinkles. You need to add them while the cake is still freshly buttercreamed so they stick well. The way this cake looks is how I imagined it turn out, but if it all went wrong then I planned to roll the whole cake in sprinkles to coat the whole thing. For that I would have needed to hold the top and bottom of the cake- hence I didn’t buttercream the top till the very end.

Sprinkle birthday cake

To add the sprinkles I placed the cakestand over a tray and poured the sprinkles onto the bottom edge. I then threw small handfuls at the sides so there were just a few all over the cake. When I was happy with the look – and I had forced Darcey to stop throwing sprinkles all over the place and at my cake) I coated the top.


Sprinkle birthday cake

To make a clear number 2 I placed the largest cookie cutter I had in the centre then carefully poured some sprinkles inside. I used a decorators paintbrush to press them down so they stuck in place when the cutter was lifted off.




The last thing to do was to remove any loose sprinkles from the cakestand and try to deliver it. Try being the word!




My top 5 cake disaster tips!

Dahlia 2nd birthday cake Last weekend I made a birthday cake for little Dahlia. I can’t quite believe that she is two already! It seems like just yesterday that I made a rainbow cake for her first birthday. It was the first time that I had a cake disaster! I’ve heard many people talk about when they dropped cakes or the dog licked the buttercream when they turned their back for two seconds but luckily it hadn’t happened to me! Till Saturday!  I learnt a few things from my disaster. I will share all!


1. Listen to your intuition

What was I really thinking! I made a cake covered in pink buttercream which was decorated with sprinkles. I didn’t want to have to pick it up to place it on a cakestand (Theoda – Dahlia’s mum is probably the only person who really gets my obsession with cake stands!) so, I secured the cake on a white ceramic cake stand with a dab of royal icing. I then put the cake stand in a big cardboard box and wedged it in place. It felt a bit unstable but I thought as long as I drove the one mile to Theoda’s house it would be okay! My intuition was screaming “WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING YOU. YOU’RE CRAZY. THIS WILL NEVER WORK” Tim, who was watching me  load up the car on what was the hottest day ever said “Oh it will be all right” which in all honesty is what I usually say! I knew it wouldn’t be but I didn’t want to be late so I gave it a go.


2. Don’t travel with a cake on a cakestand. EVER!

So, what happened?

I pulled off my driveway. Slowly. Carefully. I turned the first corner and I heard a ‘pfffwamp’ sound. My heart sank. I knew it was the cake. I hadn’t driven 200m. I got out and looked in the boot and this is what I saw!crushed!

No matter how well you think you have secured your cake and cakestand it’s way too stressful to travel this way. Next time the cake will be put on a very thin board and transferred onto the cakestand at the venue!


3. Don’t shout at your husband who is trying to help! 

Oh dear! Poor Tim. He tried to help and tell me how to salvage the cake and what did he get from his ever loving wife? “I KNOW what to do. Who’s the cake decorator around here?” Sorry Tim. I did apologise straight away but I was horrible!


3a. Don’t shout at your kids!!!

Oh dear, Oh dear! Beau came to see what all the commotion was about “Why are you back? What happened to the cake?”  she asked. It took all my strength not to shout at her. I said in a not so calm voice “If ever there was a time to stay away from me, NOW is that time!” And what did my highly sensitive nine year old do? She just shrugged her shoulders and walked off to find the nearest TV. Not a peep out of her! Sometimes she really does surprise me.

She got big kisses before I left for a second time to deliver the cake by the way. She just wanted to get to the party so she could see Dahlia and her dog!


4. Don’t Panic

This should probably have been tip number 1. I didn’t panic as much about the cake as I did about being late! I’m always late and I really hate that. I took the cake inside the house and lifted it out of the box to asses the damage. Not as bad as I expected. The top was dented on both sides but I was lucky. Had this cake been covered in sugarpaste I wouldn’t have been able to fix it. As it was I scraped off the damaged area and just piled a load of excess buttercream on top, smoothed it to hide the mis-shape and added a few more sprinkles.

I had originally spent quite a long time getting the cake all even – as Tim is always telling me they are wonky so I work really hard at perfecting that. This cake was far from perfectly flat!

Sprinkle birthday cake

5. Make a mess if it means getting the cake fixed

So, to fix the cake I had to add more sprinkles. Lots more! When I added sprinkles to the finished cake first time round I was slow and methodical. The cake was positioned over a tray which caught most of the stray strands. Now I was in such a rush that I just left all the mess behind. No tray, no method! Buttercream, big black mixing bowl full of sprinkles, sprinkles on the worktop, sprinkles in the fruitbowl, sprinkles on the floor. Mess EVERYWHERE!

Messy baker!Tim is so good. He just leaves me to it! I walked away leaving the kitchen like a bomb had gone off! A bright and colourful bomb, but a messy one no less! He really does have the patience of a saint. Tim I so love you!


All’s well that ends well. 

So, I fixed the cake. Put it on a plate NOT a cakestand and delivered it. I was only 20 minutes late! And did Dahlia like it? Well, put it like this. Before we even started to sing happy birthday and the cake was cut she was scooping up sprinkles and buttercream on her finger and eating it.  I think it was a winner!Happy birthday Dahlia x

Happy Birthday gorgeous Dahlia. We love you.

So tell me, what are your cake disasters then? I’m sure I’m not the only one! I’d love to hear your stories.

Quick flapjack recipe

Quick flapjack recipe Sometimes I get a cake in my head and I just can’t stop thinking about it. Flapjacks have been one of those cakes recently. Want to know why? It’s a silly story really! A few months ago Tim accidentally picked up some  Golden syrup flavoured Weetabix by mistake. I think they were a trial thing. Darcey is completely addicted to Weetabix, but she didn’t like these at all so, they sat in my baking cupboard for ages. I kept dreaming up recipes where I could use them and flapjacks were what I thought of. I mean they are wheat- like oats and they are flavoured with golden syrup – like flapjacks.  So, a few weekends ago when Darcey and I were deciding what we wanted for breakfast flapjacks were top of my thoughts.  That’s when I discovered that the Weetabix were completely out of date! It turns out that I had been thinking about them for about 5 months! Not one to be discouraged we made these ones the old fashioned way. With porridge oats and in our PJ’s!

Quick flapjacks

Quick Flapjack recipe

Makes 8 decent sized bars

  • 100g butter
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 175g oats
  • 100g dried fruit (raisins/sultanas/ cherries/mango – anything goes) 
  • 50g mixed seeds (pumpkin/ sunflower/ sesame – again anything goes)- Optional

How to make quick Flapjacks

  1. Line a baking tin with silicon paper. My tin was 10×10″ but you can use any similar size. A smaller tin will give you a deeper flapjack. Heat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC Fan)
  2. Melt the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over a low heat and combine well. 
  3. Remove from the heat and add the oats, dried fruit and seeds. We used a packet of tropical mix which has raisins, dried apricots, pineapple and papaya. We chopped the larger pieces up so they were about the same size as raisins.
  4. Mix all the ingredients until everything is well coated in the butter/golden syrup glaze, then place it into the prepared tin.
  5. Use the back of a spoon to lightly press the ingredients down into place. The more you press the less crumbly your flapjack will be.
  6. Pop the tin in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes. The edges will start to brown very slightly. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin on a cooling rack. If you over bake flapjacks they will be as hard as rock and will be able to break teeth (not really but they won’t be nice!)
  7. After 10 minutes carefully cut the flapjack into bars. It’s best to do this while it is still warm in the tin. It’s really difficult to do it once it’s cold.
  8. Leave the flapjacks to cool completely before you remove them from the tin.
  9. Flapjacks are best eaten on the day you bake them – or in our case waaay before lunch time!

flapjack recipe


I am thinking about making these flapjacks with museli next time as I have recently re-discovered Alpen and am completely addicted to it all over again. Have you had it recently? It’s soooo good. What do you think? Good idea or bad idea?  I’d love to know what you think.


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