Can you bake a ukulele?

Before I started this project I couldn’t even spell Ukulele, nor played upon a uke, never mind baked one – but not being a baker who can refuse a challenge, when Lou from Lou and the Lllamas asked me for a cake for her ukulele group, Levy Uke Up‘s first birthday, I could not say no.

A quick scan of the internet revealed that Wilton make a guitar/ukulele cake baking tin and conveniently my local cake shop – Top Tier Cakes, had one to hire.

From then on I was on my own – all the Wilton recipes are for US bakers, and they tend to work in boxes of cake batter – this tin took two!.

So I thought I’d rather make too much batter than not enough, so  I made a ‘3 x’ mix  (see below) and then thoroughly greased AND floured the pan.

  • 240g soft Stork, beat a lot ;
  • add 480g caster sugar, beat;
  • 6 free range eggs beat each one in;
  • 450ml plain yoghurt and 3 tsp vanilla essence
  • then mix in 450g self raising flour and 3 tsp baking powder
  • bake 180c (fan) for 30 mins or til cocktail stick comes out clean


Here she is – held by my willing and able assistant aka Keef.

baked uke

Once she came out of the tin – she looked quite, well, ukulele like.

Then I left her to cool completely, and make some buttercream, a little of which I first spread onto the cake board (a 18″ square since you ask) to stop the cake from sliding away, then put the cake on to it.

I then, very nervously, split the cake and filled it with the obligatory raspberry jam and buttercream – normally I would apply the jam to one half of the cake and the buttercream to the other with a palette knife, but rather than flip this very delicate half a uke, I piped the buttercream on,

I then applied buttercream to the sides and top of the cake using a palette knife. This is known as the crumb coat, and once left in the fridge for the buttercream to set, means that any loose crumbs from the cake should not get on the icing.crumb coat

Once the buttercream is firm to the touch, it is time to cover the cake with fondant.

While I was waiting for that, I made the keys, with a tiny stick of dried spaghetti in each one, to stick them to the cake, the fret, and the flowers and message tags.

Then assemble using sugar glue and a steady hand, applying the fondant to the whole cake and gently smooth it, add the decoration you have prepared and voila – the Ukulele cake. Enjoy!



Hey Madeleine-ah!

Freshly Baked Madeleines

There is nothing to beat a freshly baked Madeleine – light, golden, lemony loveliness.

These beauties are so easy to make – all you need is 100g butter (non-salted preferably, melted and allowed to cool for about 10 minutes),100g caster sugar, 2 (free-range) eggs, a lemon, 100g plain flour and 3/4 tsp baking powder – oh, and a Madeleine tin. (See below for Method)

Now you will have gathered that I am a great fan of silicone bakeware, so when I saw Michel Roux showing Mary Berry how to make Madeleines, I thought I would have to try making them, and ordered a silicone tray from Ebay.

It arrived, and looked, well blue mostly.

Silicon madeleine tinHowever, before I had a chance to try it, happened to be in TK Maxx, and spotted a lovely non-stick metal tray and it seemed rude not to, so I bought it too.

Metal Mad tinAs you can see, once washed, I lightly sprayed the tray with Frylight (spray oil) – melted butter would alos be fine, and, dusted half the moulds with flour.
Let the experiment begin.


Preheat the oven to  200C/400F/Gas 6

Beat the caster Sugar with the eggs til light and foamy, add the juice and zest of a lemon, the melted butter and sift in plain flour and baking powder – whisk to a smooth batter, and then leave for 20 mins or so.

Distribute the mixture evenly between the oiled moulds, and bake for 8-10mins, until golden brown, allow to cool slightly and then eat them all up!

Now I made a double batch of mix, and using the metal and silicon tins simultaneously,  I was surprised to see the difference in appearance of the end result.

Silicon MadsMetal Mads

So, for perfect Madeleines – it’s going to have to be the metal tin everytime. Interestingly, with a good non-stick tray, there didn’t seem to be any advantage to flouring the tray, in fact, I probably wouldn’t bother.

Then, because I loved them so much, I decided to experiment  and using this recipe, made some Chocolate Orange Madeleines .

100g golden (or ordinary) caster Sugar, 2 medium (free range) eggs , 100g melted butter, the juice and zest of an orange, and sift in 75g plain flour, 25g cocoa and 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder. These could be dipped in some melted chocolate too, if you were feeling extra indulgent.

choccy mads

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

red velvet 3

Who can resist a Brownie – honestly? And how many times have you been put off a great sounding recipe by the ingredients being stated in ‘cups’ and ‘sticks’ of butter. So I have translated a wonderful recipe from a great US blogger, for use in the UK *. It also gives you a chance to try making something “Red Velvet” without having to make an enormous 3 tier gateau.

*Thanks to Fi, who gave me a set of ‘cups’ for Xmas to facilitate this.

You do however need to invest in some proper food colouring, which comes in the form of paste, and this will give your brownies the lovely rich colour which is the feature Red Velvet – I use this one –

Equipment – a 8″ x8″ square baking tin ( as you know, I prefer silicon, which just needs a light spray of oil, but if you are using a metal one, then line it with greaseproof paper, and then oil plus mixing bowl x 2, food mixer(if you have one) small pan, scales, spoon and sieve.


For the Red Velvet Layer

250g butter
3 ounces (Fairtrade) dark chocolate, chopped
250g (Fairtrade) caster sugar
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
Red paste food colouring (see above)
75 g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (if you are using salted butter, then you omit the salt)
25g  (Fairtrade) Cocoa Powder (not drinking chocolate)

For the Cheesecake Layer

250g Cream Cheese, softened (ie leave out of the fridge for several hours)
45g (Fairtrade) caster sugar
pinch salt
1 free range egg
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

First pre-heat your oven to 175c or 165c if you have a fan oven.

Now, first of all please read the method to the end, as this recipe has 2 steps, and the first time I made it, I didn’t notice the 2nd step until I had put the red velvet layer in to bake, and had to whip it out of the oven to put the Cheesecake layer on!

Red Velvet layer: Melt the chocolate and the butter in the pan on the stove, slowly, stirring as you go, and set aside to cool. (I would pour it into a cold bowl/pyrex jug but depends how you feel about washing up!).

red velvet 1

Beat the eggs, with the vanilla and sugar, until thick and a bit foamy, then add the food colouring, dip the end of a teaspoon in the pot, and transfer a lump about a big as a 5p coin into the bowl, and beat until mixed – this should be exceedingly red by now. Mix in the cooled melted choc and butter.

sift in cocoa

Weigh out the flour and cocoa (plus salt if using) and using the sieve, sift into the egg mix, and beat to blend. It will now be a slightly darker red. Pour this into the baking tin.

Cheesecake layer: Then using the other bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar,salt, vanilla and egg and pour this into the tin, over the red velvet mixture. Gently swirl the topping with back of a teaspoon, so that it is slightly mixed into the top of the brownie mixture.

Then bake in for 50 mins, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into 16 squares.  I can assure this will not then last very long, well in didn’t in my house!!

Pinterest Part 3 – quite liking it…

Art for the day

Art for the day

Well, I am pleased to report getting a bit more excited by Pinterest. My page is coming together nicely, as I have kept to my earlier undertaking, which was to ‘Pin’ things every day.

At first I felt that I had no idea about what I was doing, so I looked at my friends who already were on there, and saw what they were up to, and what boards they had created; these include ‘Dream Holidays’, ‘Christmas Ideas’, ‘Owls’ , ‘My style’ – anything that can be pictorially represented was here.

I found and loved these!

funky nails picture from Pinterest

funky nails picture from Pinterest

So as a newbie I decided to create some boards of my own, and once I started looking for things to ‘Pin’ on them, ideas started to flood in, and the process began to take a life of its own.
Obviously, I had to have a ‘cake’ board ( which soon became two, one to showcase my own cakes, and the second to pin ideas for future baking experiments);a craft page, since there is a heck of lot of craft on Pinterest, a couple of pages for fun, including cheese, dogs, and Denmark, because my husband and I are great fans of the Nordic Noir dramas – the Killing, the Bridge, Borgen etc.

Then I noticed  that I could upload my own pictures, and link them to my blog and Facebook page – to increase the traffic to them both, all good.

In the past I have tended to put photos I wanted to keep onto my Facebook wall, but have not wanted to overwhelm people with things which are of no interest to them, now I realise that I can pin away to my heart’s content, and no-one but me needs to see it.  I subscribe to an Art of the Day mail out, and today was the first day that it occurred to me to save the picture, and pin it to my Art of the Day board – see above .  Btw I then spotted the link to their Pinterest page  but the precedent is set now, I have somewhere to display things that please my eye.

It is also a great place to stick all those project ideas that you come across, and wonder what to do with.

Go on – just have a quick peek on Pinterest – I think you will like it!

Nine Things every baker should have/know.

Just in case you are fairly new to baking – thought I would share some of the things that I use and love, or have learnt and practise.

Things you should have:

1. A folder – get yourself a dedicated baking folder, like this one – .

Then you can stash recipes torn (or clipped neatly) from Newspapers and Magazines ( so you don’t have to keep the whole magazine) and print things off the Internet, and they will stay clean, dry and grease free – unlike your favourite recipes in cookery books, which no doubt pay homage to your cooking prowess by their grubby dishevelled nature. I have one which I call my Baking Bible – if it is in there, then I know that recipe works, it has earned its stripes.

2. A palette knife – now I have a lovely stainless steel one with a wooden handle, which came with my college knife set, and my dad engraved my name on, BUT it can’t go in the dishwasher, so I also have one from the Pound shop, which not only cost £1.00 (yes, unbelievable I know ;-)) but I can bung it in the dish washer with impunity. The cheap one also has ruler markings engraved in, which is surprisingly useful. When making any sort of large cake, the palette knife spreads jam, icing, cream or buttercream quickly and efficiently. In fact, when making stacked cakes, I actually use two, one for the cream and one for jam.

3. A food mixer – this does not need to be a stand mixer (eg this little fellow – if money is no object!! but a simple hand mixer is sufficient for most bakes, and can be found for under £10 (eg ).Using one ensures that cake mixtures can be easily combined properly, cream and meringues whipped to stiff peaks in moments and truculent sauces knocked into shape. There is some debate amongst the bakers I know, as to whether Kenwood or Kitchen Aid are the better stand mixer brand; as you may have guessed, I am a Kenwood fan. This is probably just a matter of taste, or what you are used to. I would say always read the reviews on Amazon or similar, before you buy, and always buy the best you can afford, if you bake a lot, your mixer will need to stand up to it. One other point is if you plan to make bread and yeast products, you will need (not knead) at least a 800w stand mixer to be powerful enough to work the dough.

4. Decent weighing scales. Some recipes are more dependant than other on having the  exact quantities, but make life easy and buy yourself some good scales. I like electronic ones with a digital display, and the ability to reset to zero after each ingredient. I have several sets, include some wall mounted ones, which fold up when not in use; these are all very well, if you have a space on the wall just above worktop height, I don’t and put mine on the side of a wall cupboard, so they are not the most convenient when weighing out large quantities for say a Christmas cake. (In case you are wondering why I haven’t taken them down, there are 2 reasons, one it means I always know where at least one set of scales are – and two, they are near the cupboard near the breakfast cereal – Slimming World followers will now understand)

5. Good quality greaseproof/baking paper – gets used a lot. I line baking tins and sheets with it (unless it’s a loaf tin, and then I use pre-formed loaf liners). I use it when making things from sugarpaste, to let them dry on, and also when folded to double thickness,you can use  greaseproof paper to make a durable handle – for a cake lifter, to raise a cake out of a snug fitting storage tin. This is one thing not to scrimp on, in my opinion, cheap baking paper can ruin a bake by sticking.

6. Clean cheap tea-towels – I wash mine on a very hot wash, and then use them to cover cooling baked goods – unlike kitchen roll, the slightest draft does not cause them to waft away, and leave your delicious produce in the path of evil blue bottles who are waiting to lay their eggs (and worse) as soon as your back is turned. I suggest the cheap microfibre ones, because they wash and dry in a matter of hours, and no need to iron!

Things you should know:

7. Not all recipes work – sometimes even if you follow a recipe from a book or online, the end product is not perfect, doesn’t look or taste right or is so bad you simplyhave to give it straight to the dog. This can be due to operator error, ie you have not measured your ingredients, followed the method, got your oven temperature correct or timing right. However if you are convinced that you have done all of these things, then make a note on the recipe, and try it again but differently, for example, I have a recipe leaflet from the 1980s from Kelloggs – I make the All-Bran loaf on it, but I reduce the sugar by a third, as the original is far too sweet for my, and most people’s taste. Also if the recipe is in both Imperial and Metric quantities, always stick to one or the other, as it is the ratios of sugar to fat to flour that should be adhered too; but also sometimes, especially with older cookery books, there are errors when converting from Imperial and the Metric recipes have one wrong quantity. If you think that very, very roughly 1oz is about 25g, then you can sometimes spot the mistake.

8. Go on a course – or ask a baking friend to teach you. People who bake for fun often love to share, and if you have a baking friend, they would almost certainly be happy to show you what they know. Or go to college or cookery school, you can pick up so much, even on a short course. It is so much easier to learn by watching someone else do it first. If a course is out of your price bracket, then look on YouTube, there are loads of amazing free videos about all aspects of baking.

9. All   bakers make mistakes – I have made a Victoria Sponge many times, and now do it without concentrating, and to my cost, last weekend, made one, and the eggs curdled, but I thought it would be OK, and it wasn’t. That sponge is now in bags, in the freezer, waiting to become trifle sponge – it was too miserable to make into a decent cake. If you make a mistake, try to decide what went wrong, and don’t let it put you off. Baking should be fun, and rewarding, and a hobby you can enjoy for life.

Go on – bake something soon!

Pinterest – Part 2

So immediately I see the familiar Social Media steps, log in, create account, go into settings and generate a profile, upload a picture and link to websites etc.

One day, I imagine everything will be linked to everything via Social Media,  6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon will be eclipsed and eroded as we are all linked together in the World Wide Social Media Web of Life. To this end, the next step is to find ‘friends’ from Facebook, Gmail, Email etc. Of course, a number of these people I have never met, but have come into contact with, through work, interests, online games, or simply through another social medium. However, they are now my friends, and must be linked to Pinterest.

I can upload an image to reflect my personality, maybe my face, my pet or maybe one of my edible “offspring”, and then start to create my boards.

It is at this juncture, that I start to ask what I want the platform of Pinterest for – my cakes and bakes, to show the world my various pets, my rather suspicious and varied taste in literature, and my favourite plants, perhaps the gardens I aspire to build. Then I have to decide what image I want Pinterest to present, of me, to the world. Do I omit the Jodi Picoult books, and only portray myself as a diligent peruser of the classic tomes, and what about the self-heal and ‘how-to-be-sick’ guides, thus revealing my less than perfect physical health. I am currently trying to lose a bit of weight, so do I create a board of Slimming World ideas and motivators, at least that would be a useful contribution and maybe even a reference guide. I will be interested to see the extent to which my friends and followers have chosen to open their hearts and/or bare their souls in photo form, it is already apparent to me which types of people this form of social interaction could easily appeal to. The arty, the crafty, the people who can look at something and see what colour might complement it, what plant should be behind it, what medium it should be made in, or how remarkable improvements could be made to an original object by some small but significant additional item.

I can already begin to see the value of a well maintained Pinterest site for retailers of items chosen as much for their visual impact as functionality, clothes, furnishings, works of art, and other objects to be desired. I am going to look at some boards now, and then see if I am inspired to begin building my own.

Gail Quartly-Bishop: Freelance Botanist

Working in Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, North Wales and Mid Wales

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

The Boozy Rouge

A love letter to food and south east London

Food Fun and Frolics

Just another site

gingersiren's Blog

Life, love & living with Grave's Disease

Bacon on the beech

Baking, blogging, being - in Manchester.


Annette J. Dunlea Irish Writer


Baking, blogging, being - in Manchester.

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: