Coffee Kahlua Crown Cake

The very wonderful Mary Berry has filmed a new series ‘Mary Berry Cooks’ which aired this week (Mondays 8.30pm, BBC2), and this week’s subject matter was Afternoon Tea.

This is a type of meal which is fairly close to my heart for obvious reasons and also a treat I like to indulge in, in celebration of life events. The idea that on a regular basis anyone needs 4 ‘meals’ a day is fairly ridiculous, but like the feasting we enjoy at Christmas, weddings and other high days and holidays, Afternoon Tea, preferably at a posh hotel and accompanied by a glass of Champagne to go with the tea and goodies really must sum up what we Brits do best to make you feel special. I had Tea at the Ritz as part of my Hen Party (a million years ago), and I had no problem convincing a whole bunch of female friends and relatives to munch through fabulous sandwiches, scones and cakes for an hour or two, despite the usually obsequious diets most of them generally adhered to.

Anyway, coming up with cake recipes and ideas these days is much like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, there’s not much left that hasn’t been tried already, however, reminding others of, perhaps forgotten, treats is the name of the game here.

IMG_1192This is, as the title of the post suggests, Coffee Kahlua Crown cake. Meringue on top of cakes is a bit of a favourite of mine from the aesthetic point of view and although I have offered up something similar before it was a bit of a half-baked (!) affair, this is far more sophisticated both in looks and flavour.

So essentially we have a coffee walnut sponge cake, 6 smallish meringues, butter icing and glace icing to decorate. Where to start; making the meringues perhaps.

Very straight forward really, the day before you plan on making the cake, you will need 3 medium egg whites and 150g caster sugar, you can add pinches of salt and vinegar and vanilla extract, but it’s not necessary, egg whites and sugar is enough!

So whisk the egg whites so that they form stiff peaks but the mixture hasn’t gone over and become ‘dry’. This is clear when you see it so whisk more circumspectly as you reach the stiff peak stage to see off this point. Then, turn the motor on the whisk down a bit and start adding dessert spoonfuls of sugar gradually allowing each spoonful to be fully incorporated before adding the next one. You are aiming for a stiff, glossy white state. It must hold it’s shape. You can colour the meringue if you wish at this point using colour pastes ideally, or not as the case may be.

Preheat the oven to 120°C/Fan 100°C and cover a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper. You can then either pipe the meringue using a nozzle like this → IMG_0756

or just use 2 teaspoons to create blobs, a bit bigger than a golf ball, spacing them with room to expand a little on the baking sheets. this amount of mixture will probably make about 12.

Bake for 1 – 1.5 hours until hard to touch and slightly browned. Leave the door of the oven ajar to let them cool.

They will store for a couple of weeks in an airtight tin.

Next the cake: a Mary Berry recipe if the truth be told (and she must be credited) with a minor tweak.

So you will need: the oven on to 180°C/Fan 160°C, grease and line the bases  of two 8″ sandwich tins.

The ingredients are as follows: 4 large eggs, 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee powder (use the fancier instant espresso as it’s more of a powder and less granular), 225g soft butter, 225g caster sugar, 225g self-raising flour, 2 level teaspoons of baking powder, 50g chopped walnuts.

It couldn’t be easier, crack the eggs into a jug and add the coffee powder and whisk together (yes really), weigh out all the other ingredients into a bowl and then add the egg/coffee mixture. Beat together until smooth. Divide between the two sandwich tins and level with a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes or so until a small sharp knife blade comes out clean and the cake is starting to come away from the edges. Leave to cool in the tins initially and them remove to a wire rack until cold.

To assemble: for the buttercream you will need 75g softened butter and 210g icing sugar, 1.5 tablespoon of milk and 1 tablespoon of Kalhua. Begin by beating the butter and sugar together, slowly initially to incorporate the sugar into the butter otherwise there will large sugar clouds everywhere. Then add the milk and Kahlua and turn up the mixer to beat quickly for 5 minutes. Stop half way through and scrape the sides down to ensure everything is mixed evenly.

IMG_1191Lay the bottom half of the cake on a plate or cake stand, level the top of this layer with a long sharp serrated knife if necessary and then, coat with 2/3rds of the buttercream. Layer the top half of the cake on top and check whether it appears level. Spread the remainder of the buttercream thinly over the top of the cake and place the meringues (probably around 6) on top of the buttercream.

As a final flourish pop two spoonfuls of icing sugar in a small bowl and add just enough Kahlua to give a thick runny consistency so you can drizzle. Using a teaspoon go ahead and drizzle this icing over the meringue and cake. Dust with a little cocoa powder if you like.

The crowning glory of an Afternoon tea.

One of the Greatest Love Stories Ever Told

Romeo and Juliet would be another good cake idea, but here is Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy on this occasion. An 8″ square chocolate swirl cake, trimmed to create a book shape and covered in sugarpaste accordingly.

The figures are made in advance to allow for drying time.

The tricky thing here is to resist embellishing the scene with additional props. As the great designer Laura Ashley used to say,’ stop before you think you are finished!’

Happy Birthday G. X

Strawberry Glut Rain Delay Trifle

Ok, I promise this is the last of the strawberries and cream for a little while, but in my defense, Child 2’s strawberry patch has been extremely prolific despite the weather and we are ankle-deep in them. This doesn’t excuse the relentless presence of cream I know, but don’t be alarmed, I shall balance all this decadence out with some low-fat, low carb ideas very soon!

So whilst we were watching the tennis excitement on Sunday a rain delay struck, very helpfully, at the point where my better half and I felt we should really make a few dinner plans and have a cup of tea. The following dessert had vaguely been discussed over the weekend as Saturday morning’s charity bakeathon had left us with an orange sponge traybake to use up. My better half thought he might fancy his hand at a trifle recipe using the said sponge and the endless heaps of strawberries and so with a small amount of guidance from me produced this:

The kids, who are always reluctant to eat too much fruit, were charmed by this after a nervous start as there is no sherry involved and the strawberries seemed to maintain a low profile compared to the other components.

This is a fantastic way to use up left over cake. Quantities of cake, fruit, custard and cream are not critical at all and will depend on the number of mouths you have to feed or possibly how much left over cake you have.

You will need: some plain-ish Sponge Cake, Jam, Strawberries, Pimms, Lemonade, Custard either bought or homemade and Whipped Cream.

  • Begin by making up the Pimms, 1:2 Pimms to Lemonade so stronger than normal. 2 shots Pimms and 4 shots Lemonade should be enough for a regular quantity of trifle (4-6 servings). Pour the Pimms and Lemonade into a saucepan and heat until boiling and then simmer for a minute or two to boil off the alcohol. Allow to cool a little.
  • If your cake doesn’t already have jam in it, then make jam ‘sandwiches’ with it and then cut the sandwiches into fingers and arrange a generous layer in the bottom of your bowl, we used morello cherry jam but raspberry or strawberry would be fine too.
  • Pour the cooling Pimms mixture over the sponge and let that soak in whilst you wash and slice up some strawberries (around 200g). Add them as a layer over the cake.
  • Spoon on about 300-400ml of ready-made vanilla custard, for the size above, or make up some however you usually do having let it cool down to some degree before you spoon onto the strawberries. Cover with clingfilm at this point, to stop a skin forming if the custard is warm, and allow it reach room temperature then chill in the fridge.
  • Just before serving whip up about 300ml of whipping cream and spread over.
  • Decorate with whole strawberries or slices if you wish.
  • Yummy

For anyone who is wondering how the Turkish Delight turned out it is on my Facebook page. Click on the link on the side bar to have a look.

I have a cheeky request for anyone who is feeling charitable today. I need one more FB like for my Cutest Cakes Facebook page to receive stats info, so if you do go and see the Turkish Delight and have an account please could you consider ‘liking’ my account if you haven’t already. Also many thanks and to all the new follows here and the ‘likers’ over on FB that I have already.

I love you all.

Jubilee Cupcakes for the Late Bakers

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations kick off this weekend and Union Jacks are literally bedecked across every available surface, lamp-post, flag pole, strip of bunting, cake tin, apron, cupcake case etc etc.

There also seems to be much ‘googling’ for jubilee cupcake ideas. The stats pages on this website alone is testament to this. However, if you are anything like me then the fact that some sort of festive treat will be needed is only just appearing on the radar of ‘things to do’ and  of course all the Union Jack cupcake cases and assorted jubilee themed cake toppers are sold out.

How is all that going to work out then!

Do not despair, I have some suggestions requiring cake ingredients for sure, but only of the general type which means there is a solution to the problem.

  • First off choose a basic vanilla cupcake recipe and then replace the butter with Stork Margarine. It keeps the cupcakes fresher for longer and, in my view, makes lighter, fluffier cakes.
  • If you have the time try to order on-line or go to Lakeland Limited or a specialist cake shop and buy red and blue cupcake cases and some regular white ones from the supermarket. If short on time just buy the white ones.
  • Supermarkets are selling red and blue ready to roll icing (sugarpaste). Get a packet of each colour and some white as well (always available). We are going to make our own toppers, don’t worry it won’t take long.
  • Alternatively, you might still find you can get red, white and blue Hundreds and Thousands. If you can find some then get some and a box of Quality Street Matchmakers (any flavour) or chocolate scrolls (expensive and usually come in large quantities).
  • Make sure you have some cocoa powder, butter and icing sugar in the house alongside the cupcake ingredients.

Right then, having assembled all or some of that lot, we can proceed.

Making cake toppers:

  • You need to allow some drying time so try to make these the day before the cakes.
  • If you have kids you probably have a small rolling-pin somewhere. Go and root around or ask around, if not, as this will make life easier. Also have a search around for a flat knife or palette knife, again just to make things easier. Roll out a golf-ball sized piece of sugarpaste into a strip onto an icing sugar sprinkled surface, and then trim to form a rectangle. Check this strip is not stuck to the work surface by sliding the palette knife under it to loosen it if necessary. Cut a couple of 1-1.5 cm wide strips and then cut square shapes from the strips:

  • Repeat this for the other colours to ensure you have the full complement of red, white and blue squares which can be rotated to provide diamond shapes.
  • Repeat again, this time cutting out triangles as in the second image to give bunting.
  • Keep going until you have plenty, you can try different sizes.
  • If you have number cutters you could make ’60’ instead out of red,white and blue!
  • Before they dry out completely, lightly squeeze the sizes of all the shapes to smooth and give you a more pointed diamond shape or more form to your bunting as shown here:
  • Leave to dry overnight on some greaseproof paper on a tray or plate.
  • Wrap any unused paste in cling film and then in pop in an airtight tub, it will keep until the Olympics at least, or donate to the next ‘too late off the mark cupcake maker’.

Making up the Cupcakes:

Make the vanilla cupcakes according to your recipe whatever that might be. I usually use the Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe (make sure the egg is a large one), but each to their own.

Right I am going to give a recipe here for a chocolate icing to coat the vanilla cupcakes. Chocolate is the tried and tested favourite as a topping for cakes however chocolate buttercream is usually too pale and sickly for my liking and chocolate ganache has cream in it which is no good for a warm afternoon. This is a chocolate fudge icing and is fantastic. It won’t go off at all. It also allows all the colours to contrast against it.

You will need, to coat 12 cupcakes: 100g Icing Sugar, 35g Cocoa Powder, 55g Butter, 65g Caster Sugar, 40ml (2 tbsp and 2 tsp) water.

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. In a non-stick saucepan add the caster sugar, water and butter and heat gently until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Stir to combine and then pour into the dry ingredients and mix well to give a thick, rich glossy mixture. A balloon whisk works well here to combine. Unfortunately, you will need to wait for the icing to thicken up at this point, whisking from time to time with the balloon whisk, until it reaches a spreading consistency, this is a variable feast but you really do need to be able to spread like buttercream not pour and hope for the best like Glace icing. It is likely to take 30-40 mins.

So once that consistency is achieved, spread on the icing and decorate as illustrated with the diamonds. Or roll out by hand very thin sausages of white sugarpaste as shown to wind over the cakes and hang the triangles of bunting from. Cover 5 or so cakes and then decorate before covering the next batch of 5. The icing, be it this one or buttercream, has a tendency to dry out and your decorations won’t stick properly. Nestle the shapes into the icing.

Plan B is the Hundreds and Thousands and the Matchmatchers which can be arranged as shown or if you have multi-coloured cases, just go chocolate all the way!

How much red, white and blue do we really need.

N.B. Trex (white vegetable fat) can be used to lubricate the work surface and rolling-pin instead of icing sugar when rolling out sugarpaste to achieve a perfect finish on the cake toppers. See the Baking and What not page for a little more detail.

Gold is on the birthday brain and a few Cutest Cakes explained.

It’s Child 2’s birthday tomorrow – Happy Birthday Darling Boy.

What a week for a birthday. The town is decked out with flags and bunting as the Olympic flame passed through this afternoon. Truly momentous. I have been desperately teaching myself to use a Christmas present I haven’t really had time to play with – a video recorder, to provide footage of this historic event, I don’t think I shall be posting the results, a normal jpg will have to do.

Child 2’s party has already been held. With a mid-week birthday, this is inevitable. In fact he shared his party with a friend as many in his class have May birthdays. I supplied them with one or two birthday cake books for inspiration a couple of weeks ago and suggested they choose something together to avoid arguments over the nature of the party cake and they plumped for this:

Gold mining Goblins! what more could you want in this year of Olympic excitement.

This is copied from the phenomenon that is Debbie Brown’s Cakes. The modelling guru who has turning cake decorating into an art form, like no-one else in my view. If you read the blurb on the back of one of her cake books she started out making cakes for her children’s birthdays and her talents and business grew from there. I adore her work and often use her cakes as a starting point for other designs. She is fearless with shape, carving cakes into every imaginable form and manages to get modelling paste, used to make figures and features, to defy gravity. My favourite of her books are Magical Cakes and Enchanting Cakes for Children. The cake above is from the former.

This idea of using something in print as a launch pad for a cake design is as fairly common one. I have been ruthless in this regard. For example, if you need a ski piste then Debbie’s enchanted castle atop a mountain can be converted into a ski hut up a mountain instead:

or if you ditch the hut/castle you can have an alpine scene:

The trick with carving cake into shapes is to use a stiff madeira cake recipe. Essentially if you use the recipe I give for making a sponge, add half as much again of plain flour, to the quantity of self raising, and bake in a deep tin to produce a cake which can be sculpted into a variety of shapes, in Pyrex bowls for round or egg shapes (stick 2 together) or even cooked in the ‘shaped’ cake tins one can hire to look like footballs, giant cupcakes, books, Mickey Mouse, that sort of thing. A sharp serrated knife, buttercream, a sugarpaste coat and your imagination will do the rest!

I will provide a few hints and tips on modelling paste on the ‘Baking and What not page’ very soon…..

Ham up and give it a try!

This post is for my Brother, his partner and their brand new daughter, my Niece, with love. (See Baking:Recipes and What not Page above for some details on constructing this cake)

Baby in Pram - Vanilla Sponge Cake

Apparently my Mother doesn’t like ham. When she mentioned this in passing during my twenties, it came as quite a surprise. Somehow I had never noticed despite the perpetual complaining about the size of ham my Father wished to buy and bake to help along the Christmas festivities. The general mantra in our house when I was a child on the testy subject of liking food was that ‘you eat what is put in front of you’. Clearly as I had not realised her aversion to ham, she does practice what she preaches, however the genius in this remark is of course that if you are the Senior Buyer and Cook as well, you can serve up what you like. Clever. For the Junior Food Consumers though I remember a couple of battles on this front;

1. The psuedo-chilli.  Something, when I was 8 or 9, resembling some sort of chilli dish (mince-y thing on rice) was served up one evening at tea but tasted utterly alien based on appearance expectations and I have to say, WAS ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Very rarely in our house did my Mother misjudge these things but even now as an adult I cannot image what ingredients she had used and why she was trying to pass this concoction off as something more familiar. There were a fair few tears about this, mainly of disappointment on the Junior Food Consumers part (we♥chilli) and I have no recollection of the outcome. (Brother now believes this was a tin won at a Tombola).

2. Mac and Cheesegate. Now, an unusual victory for one Junior Food Consumer in particular. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t the first time this dish had been served up. If I remember rightly our Mac and Cheese came with a squirt of tomato ketchup as a kind of garnish. Yummy. Naturally I was munching away quite happily. (This was back in the 70s way before the food revolution and Jamie Oliver was definitely still in nappies). My Brother, I realised after a little while, was picking at his serving and eventually my Mother passed by, noticed and said something along the lines of  ‘eat your tea up’.

‘ I don’t like it’

‘Never mind about that, just eat it up’

‘But I don’t like it’

Well, eat it now I’ve made it’

‘But….’              you get my drift.

I was long finished and in the circumstances had been allowed to leave the table, but not my unfortunate Brother. One could occasionally hear my Mother’s increasingly irate demands and my Brother’s wailing as he sat there contemplating his fate. Eventually the ultimate sanction was issued, ‘if you don’t eat it you will have to go to you room for the rest of the evening’. And, without missing a beat, he hopped down from the table and headed to his room rather than eat up and get on with his day. The stuff seemed to make him heave and as a result this turned into the one exception from the ‘eat what’s put in front of you’ rule.

Anyway, back to my Mother and the ham. The upshot of all this was there were few meals, now I think about it, which included ham in any form (I’m not sure where she is on bacon) and my Father will always have ham, egg and chips if he sees it on a pub menu.

So the discovery of unsmoked gammon ham joints has been an inevitable revelation. I love the endless and often instant options and find the taste and texture far superior to the regular, sliced stuff in a packet. Most recipes to cook these joints seem to include, at least in part, an instruction to roast in the oven at some point, but I really don’t think this necessary so:

  • Having purchased one of those vacuum packed joints from the supermarket, often around 750g, cut open the wrapper and remove making a note of the weight.
  • Place joint in a saucepan and barely cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then discard this just boiled water. Process removes scum and excess curing salt.
  • Start again from cold, filling the saucepan so that it barely covers the ham again and return to the boil. This time round though reduce the heat so you achieve a vigorous simmer and cook for 20 minutes per 500g or per lb, so 750g one needs just 30 mins.
  • Remove from the heat and you can either lift it out with a slotted spoon and serve slices of it immediately or leave it in the water for another 30 mins (keeps it lovely and moist) before draining the water in to a bowl (great stock!) or down the sink and allowing it to cool completely on a plate.

The obvious quick meal here is ham, fried egg and JP’s or potato wedges, more yumminess. It goes without saying, it makes great sarnies, and would be a tasty addition to the above Mac and Cheese! Once completely cold, wrap in foil and fridge where it should keep for up to 5 days.

I shall post more recipes with this ham in due course but for the record, lardons (small diced pieces of ham) can be fried until crispy and dropped into the celeriac soup recipe from the Veg box and unloved vegetables post.

Poptastic Cake Pops

Well, of course, the beauty in blogging is that I can in fact digress if I wish from the job in hand and comment on the day in general. I would like to say that it has been snowing here for the last 5 hours at least and there is still not a single flake which has settled on the ground. Quite frankly it is very disappointing!

So instead, to cheer myself up, I shall talk Cake Pops. Essentially they are a ball of cake crumbs and buttercream mix attached to a lollipop stick and coated in either chocolate or a hard sugar-coating. I had a go recently and mine looked like this:

As is usual with these things, I believe they were originally developed in the US by the very clever Bakerella who has written books about how to decorate them to look like the heads of cats, miniature cupcakes and Minnie Mouse’s silhouette. All very lovely and seemingly very fiddly.

To make the ones above proceed as follows: ideally the day before make a plain or chocolate madeira cake, I made a 3 egg madeira with 150g each of sugar, butter or margarine, and self-raising flour. Cream together the butter and sugar, slowly add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, add a drop of vanilla extract and then fold in the flour. This amount of mixture will fill an 6″ square tin (or 7″ round) which should be greased and lined. Bake at 160°C/145-150°C fan for about 45 mins – 1 hour. Alternatively use a standard sponge cake box mix to produce a similar quantity. Allow to cool then wrap in greaseproof and store in an airtight tin until needed.

Alternatively Sainsburys sell Madeira Cake so I reckon 2 of their standard rectangular blocks of Madeira would give an equivalent amount.

For the cake pops you will need lollipop sticks (available online at Amazon, or from Lakeland Limited), half a tub of Betty Crocker Buttercream style Icing and about 250g or so of Plain Chocolate. Then proceed as follows, from the lovely Yoyomax12 on You Tube, it is far easier to watch what to do than have it described,

I did exactly what she did

A couple of pointers; the exact amount of cake and buttercream is not critical so leftover cake is a very good idea, but do reduce the cake to crumbs not just lumps. Add a conservative amount of buttercream and then a little more if required to achieve a playdough consistency. This is a dough which is adhering to itself not the bowl and can be moulded. Practice balling it before deciding whether you have added enough buttercream. If you still have chunks of cake in the dough it will cause the balls to crack which will then cause problems down the line. Dark chocolate coats much better than milk.

I have to say it was all very exciting, and used up the endless tubs of sprinkles, dragees, sugarpaste hearts, stars, hundreds and thousands and I could have got stuck into the kids sweets collection too, Everything appears to stick. I ended up with 18 pops.


  • I don’t believe chocolate cake is necessary if you use chocolate butterceam as the finished dough as you can see gives all the appearance and taste of chocolate,
  •  I think they might be nice with red velvet cake mixture and plain buttercream (I’m going to trial this although I think in order to retain the red cake colour a little colouring in the buttercream might be needed) coated with a really lovely dark chocolate, as a Valentine’s Day idea.
  • They do fall off the stick very easily, so eat them over something suitable.
  • You can use something called candy melts to coat instead.

I had a comment on my Facebook page that apparently they are big in Australia as well as the US but they are still taking off here in the UK. From what I have observed we don’t seem so bothered about new ideas, cupcakes have been popular, definitely, but not so much with the Whoopie pies maybe. Perhaps it’s as Bill Bryson wrote in Notes from a Small Island ‘ we don’t mind what you do to our main course but don’t mess with our puddings’ or words to that effect. Maybe we feel the same way about cake.

I’m quite into chocolate however so I enjoyed the one I tried and found the size perfect.

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

Details for The Cutest Cakes can be found at or if you click the image on the side bar you will be transported there.