Sunday, 28 February 2016

Pineapple and coconut sponge

It has felt so cold this week that I have been reminiscing about when I used to have to travel for work and got to dodge some of Winter’s bleakness with trips to glorious places such as the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.  I don’t miss the travel at all – in fact I love getting to sleep in my own bed every night – but a bit of sunshine wouldn’t go amiss. I had ice on the inside of my car windscreen this week – the inside!!!

My choice of bake was to capture the feeling of more tropical climates – for me, this is always pineapple and coconut; two flavours I adore.  The addition of sour cream to the sponge created a soft crumb texture.  This is a dangerous cake in that you could happily work your way through several slices in one sitting…..hypothetically, of course…..this didn’t actually happen….oh no….never…not my style….

I decided to make this all about the sponge so didn’t bother with any icing or buttercream, opting for a light dusting of icing sugar – we call this ‘Fannying it’.  Fanny Cradock fans out there will understand what I mean by this; whenever she made anything and it didn’t look too pretty or seemed burned, she would always bury it under about 3 inches of icing sugar to hide the defects (usually claiming it was what they did in Paris!) – her lovely mincemeat omelette is a good example.  There was nothing to hide with this bake, but I ‘fannyed it’ anyway!


165g unsalted butter, at room temperature
165g caster sugar
3 eggs
375ml sour cream
300g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g desiccated coconut
300g pineapple, crushed or in chunks – I used tinned, and drained the crushed pineapple in a sieve to stop it being too wet

To decorate: 2 tablespoons icing sugar


Preheat oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Line a 23cm springform round tin with baking paper – don’t be tempted to gamble and use a 20cm tin; it’s a big cake.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Fold in the sour cream.

Fold in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.

Stir in the coconut and pineapple.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes -1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Mine took an hour.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Famous faces' favourite fancies – Gin and lemon drizzle cake

I was sad to read about the recent death of Sir Terry Wogan as he was one of those national treasure celebrities who was just part of your life without you ever realising it.  From loving his hilarious, disrespectful commentary of the Eurovision Song Contest (being allowed to stay up late for this was a treat in itself) to watching his face fall when Kenny Everett broke his funny stick microphone in Blankety Blank, if you were a child of the 70s and 80s he was part of the scenery.

His early evening chat show in the 80s and early 90s was one of the few shows to see bands perform their new singles and who can forget that incredible David Icke interview ?(shockingly this was 1991 - 25 years ago!!!! I've never felt so old!)  His charm, wit and refusal to take himself seriously was totally endearing and why people loved him; it takes a lot of talent to make everything seem so effortless.

Sadly, I didn’t make his request during his life time but felt it right to make it in tribute to him, and all the entertainment he provided us with. I can’t make his actual request – Lady Wogan’s lemon drizzle cake – but I decided to make something a little out of the ordinary and added a measure of gin to the lemon drizzle mix.  Sort of my way of toasting the inimitable Sir Terry!

The addition of the gin added a lovely extra element to the cake – it gave an almost sherbet-like zing to the drizzle.  I never used to like gin but have found that I now rather like the less perfumed versions, and Tanqueray is my favourite.  If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy a gin and lemon, this might just be it!


For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 lemon, zest and juice

For the drizzle:
50g golden caster sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
25ml gin – I used Tanqueray


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and whippy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the flour.

Fold in the lemon zest and juice.

Spoon into the loaf tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, stir together the sugar, zest, lemon juice and gin to make the drizzle.

As soon as the cake is baked – and while it is still in the tin – pierce the sponge with a skewer before brushing the drizzle mixture over the top of the cake.

Leave to cool.  I leave it in the tin so the drizzle has to be absorbed and can’t ooze out anywhere.

Serve in generous slices.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Mint chocolate biscuits

Long-time readers of my site will remember the anti-mint sentiments included in my TenCommandments.  My feelings to mint can be summed up quite simply – I hate it with a passion, particularly when a sprig finds its way onto my dessert plate for no good reason.  NB.  There is never a good reason. 

There are two exceptions I will happily cite: mint sweets, and mint with chocolate.  It has NO place in anything else – particularly savoury foods.  Bleugh….lamb and mint - whoever thought that was a good idea?  Mad people and mint farmers, that’s who.

Mint tea???  No!  I have tried it on various occasions and never got past two sips before wishing I just had some normal PG Tips in my cup.  The word ‘tea’ brings so much excitement into my life but there’s always such sadness and disappointment when it’s paired with ‘mint’.

This recipe appealed to me because I have a fondness for Matchmakers.  Often minty chocolate features in Christmas recipes and I liked that this is very much an all year round bake.  I also liked that the recipe doesn’t use up the whole box of Matchmakers….so the cook gets some perks!

These biscuits are crisp, thin and buttery; they hold their shape well during baking giving them a smart, uniform appearance.  They are lovely on their own, but would also be nice served with ice cream for dessert.


For the biscuits:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
280g plain flour
100g mint chocolate sticks, finely chopped – I used Matchmakers


Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.

Stir in the flour and chopped matchmakers and bring together to form a dough.

Cut the dough in half, flatten each into a fat disc and wrap in clingfilm.

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil – you may have to use the trays twice i.e. bake in batches.

Take the first disc of dough and roll out between two sheets of clingfilm – aim for about the thickness of a £1 coin (3mm approx).

Using a cutter no bigger than 6cm, cut out the dough.  You need to get 15 biscuits from each half of dough.

Place onto the prepared sheets leaving space around as they will spread when baking.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat the process with the second half of the dough.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.