Category Archives: Recipes

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!!

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!

Fairtrade fun with fruit aka – my Banana Loaf

banana loaf

You know how you mean to eat more fruit, especially now it’s the New Year, and you are going to make 2013 the year you eat properly?

You know how you now buy rather a lot of lovely, healthy, one-of-your-5-a-day apples, and pears, and ‘nanas and stuff?

Well, you know how bananas do that brown spotty skin thing and then no-one fancies them anymore? That!!

This is the solution to your problem, what to do

with that brown banana and its sad blotchy chums.

My delicious, healthy Banana Loaf.

I try to buy Fairtrade bananas cos I hope it makes a difference to some fruit grower somewhere, but the other sort will do. It is also up to you how healthy this loaf is – as there are at least 3 options as to what you add to it, chocolate (also Fairtrade if it floats your boat), date and walnut or mixed fruit (you may even have some left over from your festive baking).

I use a silicon loaf tin (2lb/1 kg) size, and if you are new to baking, try and nip to a Pound shop, and buya loaf tin, they are rather wobbly but work fine, and a pack of waxed paper loaf liners, cos they are a.) quick and easy to use, but b.) look professional and therefore impressive!

An example of the silicon loaf tin I use         An example of the type of silicon loaf tin I use

Paper loaf liners - available in the Pound shop

Paper loaf liners – available in the Pound shop.

If you remember to, leave the butter or margarine out for an hour or so, to allow it to soften, and put the oven on at 180c or 160c if you have a fan oven like me.

The ingredients you need are

4/5 lovely bananas, who look as if their work on earth is almost done; mashed

225g self raising flour,

125g sugar (I like demerara or soft brown, but caster is fine – again Fairtrade is readily available),

100g softish butter or margarine ( I tend to use Stork for this recipe),

2 eggs (medium or large, I like free-range)

and  150g of EITHER dried mixed fruit OR milk or dark chocolate chips OR dates & walnuts OR any other blend of dried fruit you want to use up. (If you are using dried fruit you may want to also add 1 teaspoon of mixed spice)

Then beat the bananas for a bit and add the eggs, beat some more, then add the flour, sugar and fat, and mix til everything looks much the same. Then add a good pinch of salt (unless you have a real objection or medical need) then stir in the fruit or choc chips. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, which you have lined with your loaf liner,put on a baking sheet and bake for about  1 and 1/2 half until a knife pushed into the middle comes out cleanish.

Allow to cool before removing from the loaf tin, and dust with icing sugar if you like.

This recipe can also be useful when baking for fairs or cake stalls, as if you double up the quantities and use about 10 bananas, it makes 3 reasonable looking loaves, but check them after about an hour of cooking. (You can buy browning bananas very cheaply in most green grocers and supermarkets ).

This cake will keep for up to a week in an air tight tin – if you hide it well!

Upside Down Cakes

I am sure you remember enjoying a pineapple down cake at some point in your life, maybe you made one at school, or it was something your granny made for you, and became a special treat. But this is such a lovely cake to make, and the result is always spectacular, plus, as I always say “it contains one of your ‘Five-a-day’ ” so it is almost healthy eating!You don’t have to limit yourself to pineapple either, any soft eating fruit will do – I have used pears, eating apples, plums and apricots, and am planning to try rhubarb once it is season.

Before you bake, just turn your oven on and set to:180c or 160c if you have a fan oven.

Ingredients and equipment: (btw I am listing everything so if you are fairly new to this, you can check you have everything to hand)

Equipment: 7″ or 20 cm silicon or metal shallow round cake tin, mixer, or wooden spoon, teaspoon(tsp) and tablespoon (tbsp), scales (to measure ingredients), knife for fruit, small pan, large bowl, cup (to break eggs into), paper cake liner or greaseproof (if you’re using a metal cake tin) and a baking sheet, and a dinner plate. Plus oven gloves or a folded tea towel.

(Upside down topping bit) 50g butter (preferably) or marg, plus 50g sugar (brown is good) plus fruit – 4-5 apples/pears or large tin pineapple rings and seven cherries or seven plums/apricots -optional choc chips or tsp cinnamon if you like it

Cake part – 100g butter or marg (I prefer stork) best left out of fridge for half an hour or so, 100g sugar (ideally golden caster, but ordinary caster, demera or soft brown all ok) -2 eggs, 2 tbsp plain yoghurt or milk , 1 tsp vanilla extract or essence (these are inter changeable) and 100g self raising flour

Method: Select the fruit, and prepare as you would for eating, ie wash and core, remove stones & stalk etc. With apples & pears, slice into four or five cross sections, or for plums, apricots, etc half, the riper the better really (see my photo of the plums) Or open a large tin of pineapple rings, you will need 7 of them, and seven glace cherries.  Melt the 50g butter and sugar in the small pan til they become a soft golden brown liquid.

Now if you are using a silicon cake tin, pour the liquid in, if a metal tin, then line with a cake liner, or greaseproof paper, and then add the butter/sugar liquid.

Now arrange the fruit ‘face down’ as when you are done, the bottom will be the top of your cake  (see picture) If you wish you can add some cinnamon to this, sprinkling it over everything, or a few choc chips ( these would be especially great with pears I think). If using pineapple rings, pop a cherry in the middle of each ring.

Now put the 100g butter or margarine in the mixing bowl and beat for a minute or so to soften, then add the sugar,and beat til the colour of the mixture lightens slightly. ( ‘Creaming’ it as my old cookery teacher used to say.) Break each egg into the cup first, remove any shell and then beat into the creamed mix, then whisk in the yoghurt or milk and the vanilla. Finally slowly stir in the flour, until everything is mixed to a smooth paste.

Then using the spoon, carefully spread this mixture onto the top of the fruit, making sure that is is roughly level, so it will bake evenly. (See picture)

This can then go into the oven for 30 mins or so, til golden brown, and firm to touch. (If you are using a silcon baking tin, I usually like to put this onto a baking tray as it makes it easier to lift out)

Then leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 mins.

Then loosen the edges with a knife, and put a dinner plate, face down onto the top of the cake tin, and holding the plate to the cake tin, quickly turn over both together, using a tea towel. Then remove the cake tin and you have a delicious, and impressive looking treat! Enjoy with custard, cream or greek fat free yoghurt as a tasty pudding or just scoff the lot .ImageImage

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