Crispy cereal biscuits

When it was pouring with rain one afternoon last week, and we’d already been out in the morning, I decided that a spot of baking was the best choice of activity, and Andrew enthusiastically agreed – he always does when there’s food at the end of an activity! I flicked through a recipe book that I was given for Christmas for some on the spot inspiration. One that caught my eye was for biscuits with cornflakes in them – like a cross between chocolate cornflake cakes and oaty biscuits. Based on this idea I looked in the cupboards, and then adapted the recipe to include rice crispies and oatmeal, because that’s what we had in. I also reduced the relative quantity of sugar, as I often do when baking with the boys.

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Since living with Granny and Grandad, we’re also enjoying the use of Granny’s Kitchenaid, which Andrew loves to help me with. I find this particularly useful when working with real butter – I tend to use margarine myself because I never remember to get butter out enough in advance for it to get to room temperature and is therefore hard work to mix!

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I have to say, for a make it up as you go along recipe loosely based on inspiration from a book, these tasted amazing. Perfect texture for the kids to enjoy, nice and light, with a real crisp to them, whilst still being a biscuit rather than a cereal bar/cake.

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Here’s how we did it…

Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 50g oatmeal
  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 50g rice crispies

Method

  1. Prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 170ºC (fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Add the flour, oatmeal and sesame seeds, and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the rice crispies and gently fold in without over mixing.
  6. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, with large enough gaps between them to allow for spreading during baking.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes until lightly golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray until the biscuits firm up.
  9. Eat and enjoy 🙂
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Plaited fruity loaf, with toddler help

The second week of the Great British Bake Off was all about bread. In the final ‘show stopper’ round, the contestants had to bake a decorative loaf which would really wow the judges in terms of creativity and flavour. A few of them opted for plaits of some sort; this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, because I quite like plaiting my hair for fun, and I don’t have little girls to do this on! So, inspired by this round of the GBBO, I decided to bake a simple plaited loaf, with 3 strands.

OK, I know, that’s not exactly showstopper material (though perhaps marginally more impressive than the tomato loaf that the contestant who lost baked!), but I also wanted Andrew to help and have a go at feeling the dough and shaping it into the ‘sausage’ shapes with me, just like he does with his play dough – anything more complicated would have likely ended in disaster! He enjoyed himself and was happy to help me with this relatively easy loaf. Joel also got involved after we’d finished and I was about to clear up – he wanted to play with the left over flour on the board, so I let him have this ‘sensory’ play time.

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I also used something that wouldn’t be allowed on the bake off: our bread maker to mix the dough (though they are allowed general mixers, so it’s not much different 😉 ) Working with a toddler is one thing, but also hand mixing and kneading dough with him is another – he went straight to the dough handling and shaping stage with me. So it’s not exactly of bake off standard, but I like being inspired by the show each week.

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For the flavour, I went for a sweet dough, based on the hot cross bun recipe in our bread maker’s recipe booklet, except I did half white and half wholemeal flour and left out the salt. That’s why it looks a bit darker than your average hot cross bun – we didn’t burn it, honest!

It came out very well; it was approved by the boys, especially Joel as it is so soft and easy to eat without teeth, and Andrew was impressed that he got to eat something that he helped make. I think it’s a good idea to get kids into handling food in the raw and cooked states, so they can learn about how food is made from scratch, rather than everything coming out of a packet.

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Here are the ingredients that we put into the bread maker and then put it on the dough setting. Once the dough was made we took it out and cut it into 3 even parts, then shaped each part into a long strand (or sausage!), before plaiting them in a traditional ‘left over centre, right over centre’ method. We then left it to prove as a loaf for 30 minutes, before baking it for about 15 minutes at 180ºC.

1 cup = the 200ml cup that comes with the bread maker, but as long as you use the same size cup for all ingredients, it doesn’t really matter how big it is.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 2 tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins

Easy blueberry pancakes

This must be one of the easiest recipes I’ve made. After the success of banana oatmeal pancakes, I wanted to make some more pancakes with a different fruit in. We also had quite a lot of natural yoghurt in the fridge, so I thought why not make pancakes with that – I’ve heard that buttermilk makes good pancakes, and yoghurt is very similar to this. So I mixed up a quick batter with half flour, half yoghurt and an egg. The fruit I chose was blueberries, because Joel hadn’t tried them yet and I knew they would cook down well and give a great flavour, texture and, most importantly, colour! They should be called purple-berries when cooked 🙂Bluberry pancakes Collage

These were a real hit with both boys. The recipe made about 10-12, so I froze some to bring out as snacks throughout the week.

Ingredients

  • 120g plain flour
  • 120g yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • 100g fresh blueberries

Method

  1. Mix the flour, yoghurt and egg in a bowl until a thick batter forms.
  2. Stir in the blueberries (whole) until evenly distributed.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Blob heaped teaspoons of batter into the pan and press down slightly.
  5. Let them cook for about 5 minutes on one side until they are nicely browned.
  6. Flip them over with a fish slice and let them cook for another 5 minutes or so until that side is nicely browned too.
  7. Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen towel.
  8. Eat as fresh as possible!

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Cupcake of the month (May): After Eight

Continuing my cupcake of the month feature baed on a cupcake calendar that I was given for Christmas, this month we have a mint and chocolate recipe, which I’ve given the name ‘After Eight’ for obvious reasons. The recipe on the calendar didn’t involve chocolate, but I think that mint and chocolate go so well together, particularly dark chocolate, that I couldn’t resist adapting the recipe to include it. I also made the cake mixture itself much less sweet than the recipe in the calendar, because the icing is very sweet – it tastes like butter mints or Murray mints – and the bitterness of the dark chocolate goes well with this.

After eight cakes

If you’d like to make these yourself, and I can assure you that they are yummy particularly after eight and the kids are in bed, here’s the recipe which makes 10.

Ingredients

  • 50g sugar
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 75g margarine
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into large chunks
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp mint extract (depending how strongly minty you like it)
  • green food colouring
  • grated chocolate to decorate

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin by placing cupcake cases in the holes.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and milk.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and mint extract and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chunks and fold in until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases to about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 180ºC for about 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool fully.
  9. Make the icing by beating together the icing sugar, margarine and mint extract, and adding the colouring a little at a time until it gets as green as you would like. Mine are quite Shrek-like, but you may want to go for a more subtle green shade 🙂
  10. Spoon the icing onto the top of each cupcake and spread it around (you could pipe it, but I find that using margarine makes it quite runny compared to buttercream icing).
  11. Finish them off by grating a small amount of dark chocolate onto each cake.

Mini (veggie) toad in the hole, aka sausage cakes – #eggmainsinminutes

Before we went on holiday recently, we had some eggs to eat which wouldn’t last until we got back. My first thought for cooking with eggs is always to bake some cakes, but as we already had a large quantity of chocolate from Easter stacked up in the fridge and on the worktop, I decided that a savoury recipe was in order.mini veggie toads

I love a good Yorkshire pudding, but I’m not a big fan of sausages (or any other kind of meat for that matter, I much prefer pulses and fish for protein), so when we do have toad in the hole, I use veggie sausages. This recipe can be done equally well with meaty sausages though. I used to cook it in one big dish, but to make it more fun for Andrew, I’ve recently used a muffin tin to make little individual toads in the hole – or should that be tadpoles in the hole?! When Andrew first saw these, he said ‘Oooooh, sausage cakes!’, so that’s stuck with us now 🙂

They are a real hit with him, as he loves to pick them up in his hands, pretending they are actually cakes. I love the amount of crispiness on the Yorks pud that you get from making it in a smaller tin. I add mustard to the batter to give it a bit of a kick – don’t be too afraid to try this with kids, it’s not overpowering. But then again, I am the mum of a toddler who eats spicy curries and chills without batting an eyelid. Serve it with roasted veg (might as well take advantage of the oven being on!) and gravy (if that floats your boat – I’m not a sauce fan, but Tom loves a splash of gravy).toads 2

One last thing before I get on with the recipe… I can’t cook toad in the hole without thinking of a song which we have on a megamix of kids/funny songs that my Dad put together for us. I didn’t actually know who it was by until I found it on youtube just now. It’s called ‘My Brother’ by Terry Scott, and it’s particularly appropriate now that we have two boys, two brothers. The whole song is funny, but the line that is the link to this recipe is at 21-27 seconds, and it’s hilarious. I’d recommend having a listen!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3ODRbw69vs

Ingredients – serves 2 adults for dinner, or 2 adults plus 2 toddlers for lunch

  • 120g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 120ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 5 veggie sausages, cut into thirds, or cocktail-size ones (raw)
  • 1 onion

Method

  1. Grease inside the holes of a 12-hole muffin tin and 3 more in a 6-hole or 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (fan).
  3. Make the mustardy batter using a blender (either stick or jug) – put the flour, eggs, milk, water and mustard in and whizz them up until a smooth batter forms.
  4. Chop the onion fairly finely, and place a few bits in each hole of the muffin tin to cover the bottom.
  5. Place one sausage chunk or cocktail-size sausage in each hole on top of the onion.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the sausages and onions start to looked coloured.
  7. Remove from the oven and pour the batter into each hole until it’s about 3/4 full and the sausage is surrounded by batter.
  8. Put the muffin tins back in the oven and bake for about another 20 minutes until the batter is golden brown and crispy on top.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before taking the toads/tadpoles/sausage cakes out of the tin.
  10. Serve with roasted veg and (optionally) gravy to hungry tums. Yum!
This is my entry for the #eggmainsinminutes Linky on BritMums, and more info can be found at Main Meals in Minutes.

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Cupcake of the month (April): parsnip and ginger

This might sound a bit wacky, but I promise you it works. Baking cakes with parsnip is no different really from carrot cakes. The cupcake recipe in my calendar for this month was simply a ginger one, but I’d been meaning to have a go at parsnip cake after the success of my chocolate beetroot cake, and I thought the flavour combination of parsnip and ginger would work well. With all the chocolate hanging around at the moment (that makes it sound like the chocolate needs an ASBO – I can assure you that it doesn’t!), these provide a lighter and different alternative.

Apart from the addition of parsnip, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the calendar one: I only put a small amount of sugar in, a third of what it says on the calendar, as the parsnip adds sweetness and I wanted to make some smaller ones to be toddler-friendly as well as some big adult-sized ones with icing on; I added some stem ginger, because in my opinion, if you’re going to have ginger, you might as well have proper chunks of fiery ginger rather than just ground stuff; I used honey instead of syrup, as usual; I made a few other changes too – so it’s nothing like the original really!parsnip&ginger cupcakes edit

The instructions on the calendar said use a cake mixer. I don’t usually bother with one when baking, unless I’m whisking egg whites (I don’t enjoy the muscle ache afterwards when I do it by hand!), mainly because I don’t have one of those super duper fancy gadgets they have on the Great British Bake Off, just a small handheld one that cost about a fiver from Wilkos when I was a student many years ago. But as the calendar put the idea into my head, I was curious to see how the cakes worked out, particularly as I was guessing it would be quite a dense, moist mixture and therefore any extra air I could beat into it would not go amiss. As I suspected, even with the aerating skills of the electric mixer, the cakes didn’t rise massively, but I like the sticky, moist texture anyway, as is often the case with carrot cakes. I would say it’s fine to use either hand or machine in this recipe – whatever mood you happen to be in.

I think that’s all I wanted to waffle on about, so here’s what you do if you want to have a go yourself. Enjoy! Tom’s verdict: de-scrump-tu-licious!

Ingredients

Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 175g margarine
  • 120ml milk
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
Icing
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar
  • splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
  2. Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
  3. With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
  4. Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
  5. Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
  6. Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
  10. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
  11. Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!

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Sweetie chocolate cookies

We’re (not so slowly) getting through all the biscuits and chocolates that we accumulated over Christmas! Lots of it is being consumed overnight as I feel pretty hungry in the night whilst feeding – this is a great time of year to be breastfeeding. What we do have quite a lot of still are sweets that Andrew was given, both when Joel was born and for Christmas. I don’t mind him eating a few occasionally, but there are quite a lot to get through, and at this rate he’ll still have some left at Easter when no doubt more will arrive! Walking past the freshly baked cookies in the supermarket gave me the idea to use some sweets by baking cookies, plus I had one lonesome egg to use up by the weekend, so this seemed like a good plan.

I’ve never had fruity sweets (as opposed to chocolate sweets like buttons or smarties) in cookies before, but I wondered how they would turn out, so took the risk and used Jelly Tots. They turned out brilliantly – I love the chewiness of the sweets next to the doughy cookie, and the different fruit flavours in the sweets next to the chocolate of the cookie. It’s not a complicated recipe, but the results are very satisfying, and perfect to devour with a hot cup of tea on a wintry afternoon. Why not have a go yourself, especially if you’ve got any Christmas sweets lurking?

Ingredients

  • 200g brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 170g margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 350g flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tube of jelly tots or other sweets

Method

  1. Cream the margarine and sugars in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Beat in the egg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and about two thirds of the sweets, and mix in until well combined, using your hands when it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Bring the dough together into a ball and then shape with your hands into a long sausage about 5cm in diameter on some greaseproof paper.
  5. Wrap in the greaseproof paper and leave for 2-3 hours in the fridge until chilled and firm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan) just before you take the dough out of the fridge.
  7. Cut the sausage shape into discs about 1cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Use the greaseproof paper to line two baking sheets, and place the discs of dough on these, spaced apart.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out the cookies and press a few sweets into the top of each one while the dough is still soft enough.
  10. Put back in the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Best eaten still slightly warm and very fresh!

Red fruit Chelsea Buns (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 7)

I made sure that I really appreciated watching this week’s episode of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), even more than I normally do, because it cost us quite a bit of money to download, as we’d got to the limit on our monthly broadband package and ended up paying a pay as you go mobile 3G rate, which soon adds up when you’re talking about hour-long downloads. Oops! It is a bit ridiculous that we even have to have mobile broadband in such a built up area, but we just couldn’t get a decent speed through the phone line, and Virgin won’t dig up our road (I know, hard to believe, but they won’t, we’ve asked more than once!)

So I was determined to make time this weekend, despite being out for most of the day on Saturday, to bake Tom something nice, to try and make up for my expensive downloading. This week’s bakes were all about sweet dough. The first was on the theme of regional buns (for example, Bath buns, Lardy cakes, Saffron cakes, and of course Chelsea buns); the second bake was jam doughnuts (which looked very hard to make, and we don’t have a deep fat fryer); the third bake was a celebration loaf (for example, Brioche or Stollen). I made a Stollen at Christmas, and the contestants mostly seemed to be proving their doughs for the third bake overnight, so I thought that a celebration loaf wasn’t a great option for my limited time this weekend. Instead I went for a regional bun that I’ve thought about making a few times, but never got round to it – the Chelsea bun.

In Cambridge there is a famous cake shop called Fitzbillies that makes the most amazing Chelsea buns – they are their own secret recipe. When the original Fitzbillies shop had to close down in the bad economic climate, many people, including comedian Stephen Fry who tweeted about it, were gutted to lose the place to buy these lovely buns. I can’t say that I bought them that often, because they were pretty expensive, but I did on a few occasions as a treat, and was sad to hear about this independent cake shop closing down. However, I was then very happy to learn, actually again through twitter, that new owners had bought the Fitzbillies shop and were doing it up in order to re-open under the same name. The icing on the cake (pun intended) was that they had even managed to gain the secret recipe for Chelsea buns along with their purchase, so the famous buns would be back in town in no time! Hooray! And I went and bought one or two not long after they first opened.

Not that I’m aiming to make anything quite as special as theirs (I don’t know what it is about them specifically that makes them so yummy, it’s a secret, clearly), but I’d often thought about having a go at baking some Chelsea buns that were at least good enough to eat. Whilst looking through our dried fruit container, to see how much we had and whether I needed to buy any more to make the buns, I remembered that I had recently bought some more unusual dried fruit for Andrew to eat as a snack as a change from his raisins, which included raspberries and cherries. These made me think that baking Chelsea buns with a bit of a twist from the usual fruits would go down well, so I went for them instead of raisins/sultanas/currants.

The recipe I used for the dough was from the BBC Food website, and it turns out that it’s actually from another series of the GBBO. Here’s a link to the recipe. I adapted it (as always!) to include red fruits (raspberries and cherries) instead of the usual dried fruits, and I decided to bake the buns close together (see picture below) rather than spread apart on a baking sheet because I like the squarer, more compacted together shape for Chelsea buns than perfectly round and crusted all the way round, I guess because they remind me of Ftizbillies’ famous ones – they have a square-ish shape to them. I found there wasn’t a lot of glaze for the amount of ingredients that the recipe said to put in, so if you like them sticky and extra sweet, I’d probably double or treble it. I quite like the fact that they’re not as sickly sweet as the Fitzbillies ones, because my sweet tooth has definitely been affected by pregnancy.

I wouldn’t win any prizes for the most consistent baker, who makes buns all perfectly the same size and shape, but the main thing is that the taste and texture are good. It’s quite handy actually that some are smaller than others (due to the shape of the rolled out dough, which ended up creating a roll that was thinner at both ends than in the middle), because the smaller ones are a perfect snack size for Andrew. He had one more or less straight from the oven, once they’d cooled down enough to eat – ‘hot’ is one of his favourite words, and he knows to wait until food is no longer too ‘HOT, HOT’! My other boy approved too, so I feel less bad about the fact that it cost us more than a few pennies to watch the episode of the GBBO that inspired this bake.

Plum and almond upside-down cake (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 1)

A slice of freshly baked plum and almond upside-down cake 🙂 Tom asked me if he needed to eat it whilst standing upside down.... I guess if you like cream with your cake, this would be a good choice, especially whilst still warm (I'm not a big fan of cream with cakes).

Our decision to no longer have a TV originated in the fact that after Andrew was born, we found that we were never watching live TV. We were never able to sit down at exactly the time when programmes were on, so would download them on iPlayer and watch them when we had chance. This also meant we could stop them mid-way through and carry on watching at a later time if we didn’t have a whole hour to watch a programme of that length. What has this got to do with cake though? Well, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) is one of the few programmes that I’ve ever set to series download on iPlayer (the only other ones I can think of have been Outnumbered and Have I Got News For You). I did it last year, and would sit and watch the episodes whilst feeding Andrew, as he would generally feed and sleep on and off pretty much most of the afternoon back then. This year, series 3 of GBBO has just started with episode 1 broadcast in the week just gone. We watched half of it it a day later, and the other half 2 days later, on iPlayer. I’m thinking that each week I may need to avoid twitter until I’ve watched the episode from that week, because there are bound to be spoilers with the number of people hash-tagging #GBBO!

Anyway, this first episode was all about cake. Contestants had to follow Paul Hollywood’s recipe for Rum Baba (which always makes me think of a family joke: ‘Rum Baba what ain’t got no rum’ …. a select few readers will know what on earth I’m going on about there. If you’re not one of them, don’t worry, it’s not really worth the effort of explaining – you had to be there apparently), and they also had to bake a cake with a hidden design when it was cut into. This last bake was amazing – they all came up with some ingenious ideas. If I had more time and energy, I’d have a go at something like that myself, but for now I thought I’d take some inspiration from the first thing they had to bake, which was an upside-down cake. The concept is as follows: you place fruit at the bottom of a cake tin, pour over a sponge mixture, bake, and when it’s cool, turn it over so that the fruit comes out on the top.

Upside-down cakes always make me think back to Home Economics (isn’t it called Food Tech these days?!) lessons, because one of the earliest memories of them that I have is baking a pineapple upside-down cake. It was pretty easy really – I’d already had quite a lot of baking experience by the time I was 11. Since then I don’t think it’s ever crossed my mind to bake one again, I guess because I thought they were a bit old-fashioned, not particularly the ‘in’ thing these days to bake. But seeing what the contestants came up with, I realised that it didn’t have to be the classic pineapple rings from a tin, with glace cherries in the middle of the rings, and a simple plain sponge. The contestants baked all sorts of variations on this theme, with various fruits, flavours of sponge and finishing touches. This inspired me to think beyond the Home Ec. memory, and use a flavour combination that I love.

And that’s how we get to ‘plum and almond upside-down cake’. I think this fruit and flavour of sponge work really well together, and I love them both on their own too. Plums are just coming into season now as well, so they have great flavour and are nicely priced in the shops. The sponge is a basic three-egg plain sponge, with half the flour (self-raising) replaced by ground almonds and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, plus almond essence instead of vanilla essence. The almonds make it denser than an ordinary light and airy sponge, but I really like this texture, more like a Bakewell tart than a Victoria sponge. I’m not sure whether Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would approve of the denser texture, but the main thing is I like it and my other tasters (aka Tom and Andrew) do too! That’s the thing I don’t get about baking or general food competitions like GBBO – flavours and textures are very subjective things, so how can they be judged by just 2 people?

As well as the fruit and sponge, an upside-down cake traditionally has a caramel topping that you line the tin with before putting the fruit in. I distinctly remember from my Home Ec. lesson that the recipe we had to follow had golden syrup instead – I remember because I’m sure that was the first time I learnt that heating your spoon in a cup of boiling water before putting it the syrup tin meant that it ran off the spoon better. For the plum and almond take on the theme, I decided to use honey instead, because it’s as easy as golden syrup (i.e. I didn’t have to make a separate caramel sauce) but I love the taste and think it goes well with the other flavours in the cake, plus I’m not a massive fan of golden syrup and often tend to replace it with honey in recipes.

If you’d like to have a go, here’s the recipe. It’s a pretty easy one, and is a bit more unusual than a classic sponge cake. Have you ever made an upside-down cake? I’d love to hear of other flavour combinations and variations on this theme.

Close up - nice golden, crispy edge, squidgy plums just inside, then smooth and moist sponge in the middle - great combination.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • about 5 medium plums, halved and stones removed
  • 170g margarine
  • 170g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 85g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and prepare the tin: line a medium-sized springform cake tin with greaseproof paper, and place on a baking sheet (this will catch any honey that leaks out).

    Tin lined with greaseproof paper, ready to be filled! Just need to put it on a baking tray (forgot to take a picture of that!)
  2. Spread the honey over the base of the tin.
  3. Place the half plums flat side down around the edge of the tin.

    Honey and plums - when I turned the baked cake over and took the greaseproof paper off, I was glad that I'd put the plums around the outside only, because they became very squidgy with the baking and lost their structure, but it worked out well around the edge as opposed to if I'd have put them in the middle, which I suspect would have caused the cake to collapse a bit!
  4. Cream the margarine and sugar together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the eggs until smooth.
  6. Mix in the ground almonds, flour, almond essence and baking powder until well combined.
  7. Pour the mixture into the tin, spreading it over the plums until they are all covered and the surface of the mixture is flat and even.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the top is golden and springy to touch. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake to check it’s baked through: if it comes out clean, it’s ready, if not, put it back in for a few minutes at a time until it passes this skewer test!

    Just out of the oven, cooling, before I turned it over
  9. Leave to cool fully.
  10. Release the spring on the tin and carefully pull the paper away from the sides of the tin. Place a plate over the top of the tin, and quickly turn it over, making sure you hold onto the tin and plate at the same time, until the cake comes away from the tin and ends up on the plate – the plums now facing upwards on the top.
  11. Store in an airtight container, or it would freeze well too, if it’s not eaten too soon 😉

    Upside down (but actually this is how it's supposed to be)

Peanut butter cookies

A while ago (OK, quite a while ago, back in June!) I posted a recipe for cheese scones, and I talked about the reason why I decided on that recipe that particular day: I had 2 eggs to use up as they were on their use-by date. One of those eggs went in the scones, and the other I promised I would blog about later. Well, these peanut butter cookies are what the other egg went in! The idea for the cookies also came from the need to use something up that had been in the cupboard for a while. I usually like peanut butter, either in a sandwich or used in cooking (for example, I have a great and easy peanut butter curry recipe), but I went off it in early pregnancy as I didn’t feel like eating it when I was so sick. So we had a couple of jars (one smooth, one crunchy) open in the cupboard for quite a while. But as the sickness eased, I felt like I wanted to try it again, and it turned out I really quite fancied it then, I think because it’s quite savoury (at least the brand I buy is, with no added sugar like some).

I had heard something about avoiding peanuts in pregnancy though, so I looked this issue up in the NHS ‘Pregnancy’ book. The current advice is that eating peanuts as part of a balanced and varied diet in pregnant is fine, unless of course you are yourself allergic to them. It was once advised that pregnant mums should avoid eating peanuts if their baby’s immediate family had a history of allergies in general (such as asthma, eczema or food allergies). But the most recent research shows no clear evidence that eating or not eating peanuts affects the chances of the baby developing a peanut allergy. That advice sounds good enough to me, and as I was in the mood for something peanutty, the cookies were a good option.

I only put a small amount of sugar in, so they actually turned out more like savoury biscuits with the texture of a soft cookie than sweet cookies. I used some smooth and come crunchy peanut butter, so I was careful when I gave one to Andrew, checking each bit as I gave it to him for big chunks of peanut – it was fine though, as there were no big chunks. If I was making them just for myself, I’d probably go for all crunchy, to give the overall soft cookies a bit of a bite to them. But the smooth butter needed using up! The recipe is below – it’s a really quick and easy one to do.

Ingredients

  • 100g margarine
  • 100g peanut butter (I used half smooth half crunchy because that’s what needed using up!)
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan), and line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine, peanut butter and sugar in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg until smooth.
  4. Add the flour and baking powder, and stir until well combined.
  5. Dollop teaspoonfuls of mixture on the baking sheets, spread well apart as they will expand.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 15 mins, or until lightly golden and still quite soft.
  7. Allow to cool, during which time they will firm up.
  8. Remove from baking sheets and store in an airtight container – though they go dry quite quickly, so I would recommend eating them asap!