The no-bake pancake cake

Hands up who doesn’t like pancakes? That’s what I thought. Pancake Day is just around the corner so what better excuse to whip up a batch (or 12, to be precise) and create a cake out of them?!

There are some recipes out there which call for pancake cakes to be baked but, frankly, the damn things are already cooked so why waste more time staring at the oven? So, this isn’t really a ‘bake’ at all.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver and, while time consuming, is super simple. I will warn you, it’s almost impossible to make this look good unless you want to spend even more time trimming, measuring and decorating but to be honest I’m more concerned about the taste!

Ingredients

3 cups self-raising flour

3 cups milk

3 large free range eggs

Pinch of salt

Olive oil

150g dark chocolate

600ml double cream

1 tbsp vanilla flavouring

1.5 tbsps caster sugar

Method

  1. Stick the flour, eggs and milk into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Heat up a no-stick saucepan and pour in a drop of olive oil. Make as many pancakes as you can with the mixture you’ve got. I made 12 but, in hindsight, I would’ve made less pancakes but made each one thicker. Stack them on top of each other and leave to cool.
  2. Heat 200ml cream in a saucepan (but don’t let it boil), take it off the heat, then add in the chocolate, chopped, and keep stirring until it’s all melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk the remaining cream with the sugar and vanilla flavouring until nice and thick.
  4. Assemble the cake on a board or stand. Put a dollop of cream on the board/stand and put one pancake on top, pressing gently to stick it down. Spread some chocolate on the top and put another pancake on it. Spread with cream and then plop another pancake on top. Repeat until everything is used up! You can decorate this with chopped nuts or fruit if you wish.

Oscar decided to have a fight with the bathroom mat while I was cooking. We were away last night so I think he was a bit grumpy with us and wanted to take it out on something.

Soft and scrumptious chocolate Guinness cake

We’ve all had days where we’ve got people coming round for dinner and we’re running late for whatever reason but still have to make something for dessert. Cue panic! I had that feeling lately when my boyfriend’s parents were coming round for dinner and I needed something quick, sweet and tasty.

I spotted a can of Guinness lying at the back of the fridge (it hadn’t been there that long…honest) so I thought I’d sift through my cookbooks for a recipe that incorporated it. Once again my trusty Hummingbird Cake Days book came to the rescue again! Crisis averted.

This was a super quick and easy cake to make and, as usual, it came out looking exactly like the one in the book with a beautiful cream cheese frosting. It was moist (I hate that word but it’s such a good cake adjective), decadent and so tasty. It went down a treat! Excuse the pun…

Ingredients

250ml Guinness (I didn’t realise until I started baking that the 200-year-old can in our fridge was ‘mid-strength’ but it still worked fine, though I was worried my dad would disown me for having anything less than full strength alcohol in the house)

250g unsalted butter

80g cocoa powder

400g caster sugar

2 free range eggs

1tsp vanilla essence

140ml buttermilk

280g plain flour

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting

50g unsalted butter

300g icing sugar

125g full-fat cream cheese

Cocoa powder for dusting (optional but pretty)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170C and line the base of a 20cm cake tin with greasproof paper.
  2. Heat the Guinness and butter in a saucepan, remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar.
  3. Mix the eggs, vanilla essence and buttermilk and then add to the Guinness mixture.
  4. Sift the remaining ingredients into a large bowl or freestanding mixer. Set your mixer or a hand-held whisk on low and pour in the Guinness mixture. Mix well until everything is combined.
  5. Pour the batter (it will be quite runny but this is normal) into the cake tin and bake for around 45 minutes or until you have a lovely bouncy sponge which springs back when lightly pressed. Let it cool completely and then turn out.
  6. Make the frosting by mixing the icing sugar and butter together until sandy. Add the cream cheese and mix further until combined and light and fluffy.
  7. Spread the frosting all over the gorgeous cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder to finish.  Serve to very impressed in-laws with a generous amount of double cream, because who’s got time for calorie counting these days?

Here’s my little weirdo cat on his radiator bed. If anyone can work out what’s going on with his legs please let me know.

Boozy gingerbread cupcakes

Anyone who’s a fan of gingerbread and/or booze will love these little beauties. And look at the gingerbread men and their happy little faces – how could you not want to eat them. I’ll say now I’m well aware that the gingerbread do look very slightly like they have willies. That’s a bad camera angle for you.

These weren’t really intended to be boozy cupcakes, and I didn’t really set out to make gingerbread flavoured cake either. However I had some King’s Ginger Liqueur left in the cupboard from Christmas as well as some mini gingerbread which I thought would make very cute little toppers.

These cakes are loosely based on another Hummingbird recipe, albeit with booze added and a variation on the icing. Here goes!

Ingredients

140g butter

200g caster sugar

60g black treacle

60g golden syrup

2 free range eggs

2 free range egg yolks

310g plain flour

1tbsp cocoa powder

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp ground nutmeg

1tsp cinnamon (much to my dislike I had to leave this out as my darling boyfriend doesn’t like cinnamon)

2 tsp baking powder

100ml King’s Ginger Liqueur

100ml milk

Icing

600g icing sugar

100g butter

100g cream cheese

1tbsp King’s Ginger Liqueur

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan and pop 12 cases into your cupcake tin (I ended up making 21 cupcakes so I had to bake in two batches!).
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add in the treacle, golden syrup, eggs and egg yolks and beat until combined.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together. Measure out the liqueur and milk in a jug.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in three or four batches, alternating with the milk mixture.
  6. Weigh out your mixture into your cupcake cases if you’re anal like me, or just put a roughly even amount in each case. I put 50g of mixture in each. Bake for 18 minutes.
  7. To make the icing beat the icing sugar and butter on a low speed until sandy. Then beat in the cream cheese followed by the liqueur until it’s nice and thick.
  8. Either spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes and decorate however you fancy, et voila!

Oscar chose to watch me from outside today inbetween catching bugs and getting in scraps with other cats. He came in for some milk halfway through, bit me, and then ran outside again.

Valentine’s tart made with Quince Honey Farm honey

I’ll be straight up here – the only thing that makes this remotely Valentine’s related is the fact I put red rose petals all over the tart when I was finished. But hey, why not.

Now we’ve got that out the way I have another confession to make – I am completely and utterly, truly hopeless at baking pastry. There, I said it. I have in the past been known to actually throw things across the kitchen when my pastry stuck to the worktop, or the edges burnt to a crisp in the oven. What I will say is I actually managed to combat both those things with this bake so it ended up looking a little bit less like a dog’s dinner. I won’t lie and say I’m completely happy with the presentation of this tart, but it’s an improvement from previous bakes and something to work on in future!

Anyway, on to the bake. I have been wanting to bake something containing honey for a long time and I have had a recipe for a honey tart sat on my shelf for a while so I thought it was about time I gave it a go.

The recipe was from Tom Kerridge’s everyday book and it looked so beautiful it was almost too good to be true. I knew mine would never look that good, but I’d hoped the taste would be up to scratch. The recipe recommended using good local honey where available; when I read that there was no doubt in my mind that I had to call on Quince Honey Farm in South Molton.

Quince has been providing the good people of North Devon with the absolute best honey since 1949 and trust me, once you’ve tasted it you’ll never pick up a jar from a supermarket ever again. If you live in North Devon (or further afield!) and haven’t tasted Quince honey you don’t know what you’re missing. For this recipe I used their clear Devon flower honey in all its golden gorgeousness, but it’s also available in a set consistency. They also have an Exmoor heather variety which is unbelievable on toast, plus spring blossom.

Ingredients

For the pastry

170g butter

80g caster sugar

270g plain flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling

5 free range eggs

1 vanilla pod (I used vanilla essence because I’m cheap)

Pinch of salt

250g soft light brown sugar

100ml double cream

85g honey

70g butter

65 ml white wine vinegar

2 tbsp golden syrup

50g polenta

Method

  1. Make the pastry in advance – I made mine the night before just I could crack straight on with it the next morning. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and pale and then slowly add in the flour – it will look very dry. Then add just enough egg to bring everything together – don’t use all of it as the mixture will be wet enough as it is! I used about half.
  2. Roll the lovely pastry into a ball (I like to squeeze it a few times purely because it feels nice), wrap it in cling film and pop it in the fridge overnight (or at least a few hours).
  3. Preheat your oven to 160C fan. Roll the pastry out between two bits of cling film – this was the first of my two major successes with this bake. This pastry is super fragile and wet so there was no way I could have rolled it out straight onto the worktop. Thanks for the tip, Tom! Roll it out so it’s big enough to fill a 25cm round loose bottomed tin (the recipe suggests you can also use a 36 x 12cm rectangle tin, too).
  4. Take the top layer of cling film off, put your tin on top of the pastry upside down and then carefully peel the bottom layer of cling film off your worktop and flip the whole thing up the right way. You might get a few little cracks or holes here and there but the pastry is so pliable you can just use your hands to push it back together.
  5. Put the tin on a baking tray, line it with greaseproof paper and fill the tin with baking beans. Blind bake for around 20 minutes.
  6. Take the tart out of the oven and remove the beans. This is where my second success came in. In the past my tarts have browned around the edges to the point of looking burnt while the centre was still raw. This time I cut out a foil ring and placed it around the edges so they didn’t brown as fast. Put the foil on at this stage and then bake for another 10 minutes until the whole thing is lovely and brown. When you take it out next trim off the excess pastry with a serrated knife.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 150C fan and start making the filling. Whisk the eggs, vanilla essence (or seeds if  using) and salt until well combined.
  8. Put the sugar, cream, honey, butter, white wine vinegar and golden syrup into a medium saucepan and heat until boiling, stirring all the while.
  9. Take it off the heat once boiling and mix in the polenta. Then, VERY slowly add in the eggs. I added mine a bit too fast and, as I suspected, they started to cook! Luckily I spotted my mistake straight away so I was able to sieve the mixture and get rid of any cooked egg.
  10. Heat everything for five minutes on a low heat, then put it in a big bowl for a couple of minutes.
  11. Pour the whole lovely lot into your pastry case and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the mixture is a gorgeous golden brown on top and has just a little wobble to it when gently shaken.
  12. Decorate with whatever fancy pants flowers you like.

Oscar sat in his usual place and watched me until he spotted a bird outside and ran off. I should clarify, I don’t exactly approve of him sitting on the worktop, but a) it’s not the bit where I prepare food and b) he’d have my hand off if I dared try to move him.

Lemon and poppy seed bundt

Bundt cakes are beautiful! There’s no other way to describe them. I’d been wanting to make one for aaages but, frankly, I was convinced I’d put loads of effort into making a great tasting cake only for the damn thing to stick in the tin and come out looking like a mangled mess.

But, seeing as I’ve started this blog and promised you lots of first attempt bakes, I thought now was the time to give it a go. I purchased a silicone bundt mould from Amazon which didn’t cost a fortune. I haven’t really got on with silicone moulds in the past but I didn’t want to shell out loads which you could easily do if buying an aluminium one.

Then it was time to pick what flavour cake to bake! I also recently purchased another Hummingbird cookbook, so I opted for their lemon and poppy seed cake which sounded delicious.

Time to get cracking! I’d been reading up on the best way to grease a bundt tin as I remained terrified the cake wouldn’t come out. I chose the fail safe method that has always worked for me and brushed the entire mould with melted butter making sure I got right into all the nooks and crannies. Then I sprinkled in a handful of flour, covered the top of the mould with cling film and shook it for dear life until the whole mould had a lovely dusting. Ready for the cake mix!

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter at room temp

370g caster sugar

Zest of two lemons

25g poppy seeds

250ml whole milk

560g plain flour

1tbsp baking powder

1tsp salt (I forgot this…)

4 free range egg whites

For the syrup

Juice of two lemons

400g caster sugar (more on this later – I felt I ended up with too much syrup!)

For the icing

Juice of one lemon

Icing sugar

Method

  1. Pop the butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds into a bowl or freestanding mixer and beat until combined. Slowly add in the flour and beat again until it’s all mixed. At this point my mixture had split terribly and looked like curdled milk. I realise that’s not a nice image, but I’m mentioning it so that if the same happens to your mixture, fear not, all will turn out well!
  2. Weigh out the flour and baking powder and then mix with the wet ingredients until combined (you might want to add the flour in two or three batches).
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form soft peaks. Then gently fold them into the cake mixture (which by now will be pretty dense!).
  4. Pop the whole lot into your bundt tin and bake at 170C fan for around 45 minutes (actual cooking time will depend on your oven).
  5. Meanwhile, put the sugar, lemon juice and 500ml water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil until it’s halved in quantity. N.B. I thought 400g of caster sugar sounded like A LOT and I ended up with more syrup than I needed. I felt like the cake would have drowned if I used it all. I’m saving the reserved syrup for a lemon drizzle cake – waste not want not!
  6. When the cake comes out the oven pour the syrup all over it and leave it to cool for around half an hour. Turn the whole thing upside down and pray to the gods it comes out. You’ll feel like wonder woman when it does.
  7. Make the icing by squeezing the lemon juice into a bowl and gradually adding enough icing sugar to form a thick but pourable paste. Then drizzle this down the creases of the cake and voila! You did it, you genius.

Oscar had a hard Sunday watching me bake. Here he is, feeling a bit wiped out, poor lad.

Gluten-free blood orange drizzle cake

Gluten-free is on the rise, there’s no doubt about it. What the reason behind that is I don’t know. Clearly, some people cut it out for health reasons, but it seems more and more people are voluntarily avoiding gluten.

Whatever the reason, I was surprised at the number of people I’ve spoken to lately who have said they’d be keen to try a gluten-free bake. With that in mind, I thought I’d turn my hand to one, so off I trotted to Morrisons to pick up my ingredients. I’d planned to make a lemon drizzle cake but the big M was out of lemons, so that was plan A off to a great start. I did spot a bag of pretty juicy-looking blood oranges so I thought I’d have a go at making an orange drizzle loaf instead!

Then it was over to the ‘free from’ aisle to get some flour. I opted for this lovely bag of self-raising flour from Dove’s Farm which wasn’t actually a bad price (I should really have written the price down but it was pretty much the same price as a decent bag of regular flour).

 

Cheeky little orange in there, just to keep it all relevant

Now, I was expecting I’d be sitting here telling you how difficult it was to make a gluten-free cake but, honestly, that’s as far as my efforts went – buying different flour. That said I was frantically checking every single ingredient, even though I know sugar doesn’t contain gluten, just in case I go around thrusting my gluten-free goods at everyone only for someone to try it and then keel over.

Anyway, you probably want to know how to make the damn thing after all my rambling, so here goes.

Ingredients

175g gluten-free self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175 butter

3 free range eggs

Zest of one blood orange

For the drizzle

50g caster sugar

Juice of one blood orange

For the icing/decoration

Icing sugar (I didn’t weigh it out, sorry)

Juice of half a blood orange

Zest of one blood orange

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to about 170C fan (I’m not sure what this is on a conventional oven – god I’m turning out to be a bit useless here aren’t I…) and grease and line a loaf tin. I’d say my loaf tin was a mini one.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. I blasted mine on the highest setting of my food processor for about five minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs then gradually beat them into the sugar and butter mix. Mix in the zest.
  4. Fold in the flour and then pour the whole lot into your loaf tin and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile make the drizzle by simply mixing the caster sugar and juice of one blood orange (use the one you zested earlier).
  6. Zest a second orange and set the zest aside for decorating later. Then squeeze half the orange juice into a bowl and mix with enough icing sugar to form a thick icing. The icing will go a beautiful pale pink colour thanks to the orange juice.
  7. When the cake has cooked stab some holes in it (this bit is very therapeutic) then pour the drizzle over. When it has nearly cooled completely pour the icing over the top, helping some of it to slide down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the zest on top and marvel at your wondrous creation.
Pretty in pink!

After I’d finished baking Oscar got over-excited and decided to sit inside a box for a bit.

Cat in a box