christmas cake 2 (2)

My Xmas Cake 2014

Christmas cake with rudolph and christmas tree design around the side

Hello Rudolph!   This is my Christmas cake.   It’s only the second year I’ve made a Christmas cake.   Last year was the first and I’ve played safe by sticking with the same cake recipe as it worked so well.   It was just what I wanted from a rich fruit cake – moist, fruity and just a bit gooey from all that dried fruit.   If that’s how you like your Christmas cake then look no further.

Most Christmas cakes are fortified with sherry, rum or some other rather strong spirit. The only alcohol in this cake is cider.   You may think that’s a bit unusual for a Christmas cake but it goes perfectly with all the dried fruit.   Well, maybe I shouldn’t say it goes perfectly as you can’t actually taste it, but the cake  is good and if the cake is good then all that goes into it must be good too.

Actually I hope this cake is good.   I haven’t properly tasted it yet, not the cooked cake anyway.  Eating the cake has to wait until Christmas, but I’m posting it now because if I wait to eat it and then blog, everyone will be so full up of their own Christmas cakes no-one will want to read about mine.

As I said at the start, this is the second time I’ve made this Christmas cake.   It was so good last year and I’m confident it will be this year too.  After all, I’ve stuck to the same recipe, with just one or two small changes.   Maybe next year I’ll try the hard alcohol route but for now I’m sticking with what I know.

The recipe is slightly adapted from Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton.


200g sultanas

400g raisins

250g prunes

100g dates

150g dried apricots

200g glace cherries

2 dessert apples, peeled and diced

600ml cider

4 tsp mixed spice

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

175g soft dark brown sugar

3 eggs, beaten

150g ground almonds

280g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

To Decorate

400g marzipan

3 tbsp jam (I used raspberry)

500g royal icing sugar

Tubes of designer icing (black/brown, red, green, yellow and blue)

How to Make My Christmas Cake

1. Put all the dried fruit, mixed spice and cider in a large saucepan.   Simmer for 20 minutes.    Leave in the pan overnight and the fruit will absorb the rest of the liquid.

2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

3. Put the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.   Use an electric whisk if possible.    Beat in the eggs, one at  a time.

4. Fold in the fruit and the ground almonds.   Sift in the flour and baking powder and then fold in too.

5. Put the cake batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven at 160C for 2.5 hours.  Test the cake with skewer and if it comes out with sticky batter still on it then return it to the oven.   My cake needed 3 hours.

6. Let the cake cool a little in the tin and then turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

7. If you want to keep the cake for a while before eating it then wrap it up well in foil and keep it in an airtight container.   You can keep it for up to 8 weeks.

8. When you are ready to decorate the cake, put the jam in a small bowl and  heat in the microwave or a small saucepan until runny.  Brush it over the cake.

9. Roll out the marzipan and cover the cake with it.

10. Make the royal icing according to the pack instructions.   I just needed to whisk mine with a little water.   When it begins to form stiff peaks then spread it over the cake with a palette knife.   I chose a rough snow effect for the top by tapping the palette knife up and down on the icing.   I smoothed the sides carefully with the knife so I could draw on them

11. I used the designer icing to draw reindeer and Christmas trees on the sides of the cake but of course you could draw anything you wanted.

I am linking this to Alphabakes, hosted by Caroline Makes and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. The letter this month is X. It is also linked to the Christmas Foodie Friday link on Casa Costello and Romanian Mum.  I am also linking to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and to Love Cake December Delights, hosted by Jibberjabber UK. Finally I am linking to Festive Family Foodies hosted by Banger and Mash and on alternate months by Eat your Veg.

alphabakesBookmarked RecipesFamily Foodiesfoodie fridays




dulce de leche cake

Dulce De Leche Cake

Dulce de Leche cake

Would you like a piece of cake?  No, I’m afraid it’s not a healthy cake.  No, it’s not recommended for dieters.   It’s just cake.  Sometimes a good piece of cake is all you need to make you happy.  That’s what this cake is like. It’s soft, moist and fairly dense with a lovely caramel flavour from both the brown sugar and the dulce de leche.  I’d love to say it’s light but I’m afraid it’s not.  Even so, you could just have a small slice.   Why deprive yourself?

The icing is also rich, sweet and caramelly from the dulce de leche.   It was a little runny and we did lose some that ran off the sides and onto the plate but we weren’t shy of scooping it up on spoons to eat afterwards.  In fact, I could have happily eaten it off the spoon for a dessert on its own.   Maybe next time I’d add just a little bit more icing sugar so it would be a bit thicker.   I wouldn’t want to dilute any of the lovely caramel flavour though.

Like the Cake Pops I made last month, the recipe was from Cake: 200 fabulous foolproof baking recipes by Rachel Allen.   I hadn’t made any of her recipes or read any of her books until recently and I am most definitely a convert now – at least to her sweet recipes, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I investigate something savoury.

Ingredients – Serves 12

175g room-temperature butter

100g soft brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g dulce de leche

2 eggs

100g ground almonds

175g self raising flour, sifted

Ingredients for the icing

50g room-temperature butter

175g dulce de leche

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g icing sugar

How to Make Dulce de Leche Cake

  1. Line and grease a 20cm cake tin. Turn the oven on to 160 to heat up.

  2. Beat the butter and the sugar together and then add the vanilla and dulce de leche.   Beat together then add the eggs and beat again.

  3. Fold in the ground almonds and the flour.   Pour into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes.

  4. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  5. Make the icing by beating the butter and dulce de leche together followed by the vanilla. Sift in the icing sugar and then beat until smooth.

  6. Slice the cake in half horizontally.   Spread about a third of the icing over the bottom layer and then pour the rest of the icing onto the top of the cake and let it dribble down the sides.  Smooth it around the sides and make it look nice if you want or just leave it with the drizzling down look.

dulce de leche cake 3I am linking this to Bake of the Week at Casa Costello and Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.

Bake of the WeekTasty Tuesdays

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cake decorating store chocolate cake

Chocolate Cake from the Cake Decorating Store

Chocolate cake made with cake mix from the cake decorating store

Is it cheating to use a cake mix?  Why use one when it’s so easy to make a cake anyway?   After all, with a cake mix you still have to add eggs and oil or butter.

I’ve never been a very confident cake maker and don’t have strong feelings either way.   My mum always made cakes from scratch when I was growing up though and so using a cake mix is not something I’ve often thought about.  About 4 years ago I made a cake for the first time and I didn’t decorate it.   The next few cakes were also plain and weren’t decorated.   It felt like it took enough effort to decide on a cake to make, get the ingredients and then make it that decorating it was just a step too far.   I know lots of people will be telling me how simple a cake is to make and I know that now, but at the time I was lacking in cake-making confidence.

The first cake I made that I really wanted to decorate was the dinosaur cake I made for my daughter’s first birthday a year and a half ago.   The problem was, I was running a marathon the day before and I didn’t have a lot of time.   I opted to use a cake mix just to simplify things.   I could then concentrate on decorating it without having to worry about the cake itself.

It’s only in the last year that I have felt confident enough to attempt cake decorating and I have made the cakes and done the decorating from scratch.  Some of my attempts have not looked especially sophisticated but I’ve felt proud of them nonetheless.

So, going back to the idea of using a cake mix, for me using one to make that dinosaur cake was a stepping stone and in retrospect, the most helpful thing about it was the fact that it made me feel I was doing something easy and so I felt confident enough to be more experimental with the actual decorating.   That has to have been a good thing.

Recently I was sent a Barefoot Baker rich chocolate cake mix to try out from the Cake Decorating Store as well as a cake tin and cake tester.  I considered whether to add my own touch and add a little extra something to the cake mix.   Maybe some chilli or other spices.   But then, why mess with a chocolate cake?   You can’t beat a good chocolate cake and I wanted to find out just how good this one would be.

The cake itself is very very dark and chocolatey.  I spread a layer of blackcherry jam in the middle of the cake because I love jam in a chocolate cake (and that’s what my mum does) and topped it with a dark chocolate gananche – 150ml double cream with 150g dark chocolate melted into it.   I then just sprinkled some grated white chocolate over the top of the cake.   Simple, but what more do you need from a good chocolate cake?

I really can’t complain about it.   The cake was moist and tasty and everyone who tried it enjoyed it.   I’m not a convert to cake mixes.   I still want to mix up my own cakes these days, but they definitely have a place and I’d be quite happy to eat this one again.

And what about you?   How do you feel about using a cake mix?

Chocolate cake made with cake mix from the cake decorating store


Disclosure: I was sent a free sample of the cake mix from the Cake Decorating Store but was under no obligation to write a positive review.   The opinions here are my own.

halloween cake header

The Ultimate Halloween Cake

Red velvet halloween cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate ganache coating

I love reading, or if not reading at least flicking through all the supermarket food magazines.  I’m often tempted by the pictures first and that was exactly what happened with this Halloween cake.  It’s the cake that was pictured on the cover of this month’s Waitrose Kitchen magazine.   Every time I caught sight of the front of the magazine I wanted to make this cake.   Well, I wanted to eat it, and if I was going to have a chance of eating it, I had to make it first.

How could I resist it?   Three layers of chocolaty red velvet cake sandwiched together with sweet cream cheese icing and smothered in a dark chocolate ganache.   It sounded as wonderful as it looked.   Normally I just don’t have time to make these type of cakes. I need to be seriously seriously tempted and that is exactly what I was, plus some friends were coming round for lunch and that is always an excuse for cake.

I can’t help saying this but every time I make a cake with any kind of decoration on at all I have such a good time and immediately want to make another cake just so I can play with decorating it.   This cake gave me the chance to  pipe with chocolate for the first time. I’m glad it was just a spiders web as I know it would have been impossible for me to pipe anything that needed a more controlled design.  The chocolate came out really quickly so I just needed to move the piping bag round and round.   My web does look a little more spindly than the one in the magazine but it was fun to do and I was impressed by how good the cake looked in the end.  Maybe if I’d been a little more ambitious I would also have tried piping a spider climbing up onto the cake but I didn’t want to ruin what I’d done.

Yes, the cake looked good and I was a little proud of myself but it also tasted good.  The cake was moist, not just in the middle but all the way to the edges, the icing in the middle was lovely  but not too thick and the chocolate ganache coating was like eating chocolate truffle.   The only thing that I was slightly disappointed about was that the red velvet colour was very very subtle.   I think you’d only know it was red velvet if someone told you.  Well, at least that is only cosmetic.  Apart from that, this is possibly the best tasting cake I’ve ever ever made.  If you have time before Halloween to have a go then do, and if not, why not make it after Halloween anyway.

Ingredients for the cake

350g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2.5 tsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

200g butter

375g sugar

3 eggs

1.5 tsp vanillla extract

284ml buttermilk

1tbsp white wine vinegar

20g red gel food colour

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Icing

120g butter

120g cream cheese

120g icing sugar

Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache Icing

300ml double cream

250g dark chocolate

1.5 tbsp liquid glucose

50g white chocolate

How to Make the Ultimate Halloween Cake

1. Put the oven on to 170c to preheat.  Grease and line a deep 20cm cake tin.

2. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt.

3. Cream together the butter and the sugar.   I used an electric food mixer.  Beat for about a minute.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time and keep beating after each one. Then add the vanilla.

5. Add about 1/4 of the dry ingredients.  Beat together then add 1/3 of the buttermilk. Repeat until you have beaten all the dry ingredients and the buttermilk together.

6. Finally stir the food colour and vinegar together and add them to the cake mixture.  Beat in until the mixture has all turned a pinky red colour without any streaks.

7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about an hour.  It is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

9. Make the cream cheese icing by beating together the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

10. Take the cake out of the tin and slice into three layers horizontally.

11. Spread the icing on top of the bottom and middle layers.  Put the layers back together and put the cake in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes for the icing to set.

12. To make the chocolate ganache icing put the dark chocolate, cream and liquid glucose in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  Keep giving it a stir until all the chocolate has melted.  At the same time melt the white chocolate in a different bowl.

13. With the cake on a wire rack, pour the dark chocolate icing over the cake and use a palate knife to smooth it over the top and sides of the cake.

14. Put the white chocolate in a small piping bag or a plastic food bag. Snip off the corner and starting in the centre of the cake, pipe a chocolate spiral onto the top of the cake.

15. Using a cocktail stick or a thin knife, drag it through the chocolate starting in the centre of the cake.

16. Put it in the fridge to set.  Before serving, take the cake out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

I am linking this to Chocolate Log Blog’s We Should Cocoa, hosted this month by Honey & Dough.  I am also linking to Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too and Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.

We should cocoaRecipe of the 'WeekTasty Tuesdays


spiced pumpkin cookies

Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

soft cakey pumpkin biscuits

I picked a pumpkin last week and I think I might spend all of October eating it.   I carve a bit off and it still looks almost as big as it was before.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of this household loved pumpkin but at the moment it seems that me and Master Spice are the only ones who like it, and Master Spice only began eating a week ago so I can’t rely on him to eat much.

Although I love pumpkin and would like to make lots of roasted vegetable dishes I think I might be the only one eating them.   My lovely husband was not quite as lovely as normal the other night when he actually refused to eat my delicious pumpkin creation and went and got a pizza out of the freezer.  Well, more for me, although pumpkins are pretty big so that means a lot lot more.

It seems I’m going to have to disguise the pumpkin and add it to cakes and biscuits instead of savoury dishes.  Rather appropriately, this month’s Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen has the theme, ‘something sweet’ and instead of using a recipe book we have to pick a random recipe from an internet recipe search.  Even without Random Recipes I would probably have resorted to the internet to find a pumpkin cookie recipe.  With this in mind I decided to search the internet for ‘pumpkin cookies UK recipe’, as I knew lots of US recipes would come up and I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to convert cup measurements.  This was the first recipe in the list and is from All Recipes.

I admit that I did adapt the recipe very slightly.   I used half the amount of sugar as it looked like it would make very very sweet cookies.  I also used mixed spice instead of individual spices.  Even with half the sugar, the cookies were still sweet enough for me and if you put a little icing on the top it makes them even sweeter.

I was hoping the recipe would give me lovely moist maybe slightly chewy cookies. What I got was lovely moist light cakey cookies.  The consistency was definitely more cake than cookie.  Now, that wasn’t a problem as I love cake and even if it comes in the disguise of a cookie, I won’t complain, but I do feel it’s fair to warn you, in case you also have two thirds of a huge pumpkin staring at you across the kitchen.   And just in case you are rather particular about the consistency of your cookies.

As you can see, I attempted to make a spider’s web decoration with the icing on top of some of the cookies.   If you want, you could try and decorate these for Halloween, but I’ll admit that I ate most of them plain.


300g plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tsp mixed spice

150g caster sugar

125g butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g pumpkin puree

To decorate (optional)

Icing in a tube

How to Make Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

  1. Turn the oven on to 180C.   Line 4 baking trays with baking paper.

  2. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice in a bowl.

  3. Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together.   Add the egg, vanilla and pumpkin puree.   Beat together.

  4. Add the bowl of dry ingredient to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix together.

  5.  Using a tablespoon, put spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays, leaving a  gap around each cookie as they will spread in the oven.

  6. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.   Mine were ready after 15 minutes.

  7. Leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack and if you want, decorate them.

As well as Random Recipes I am also linking these to Treat Petit at The Baking Explorer and on alternate months by Cakeyboi, Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage and on alternate months by The Hedgecombers and also to Lets Cook for Halloween at Simply Food.

I am also entering these into a Halloween baking competition that Cakeyboi is running along with Kleeneze.

random recipes new logoTreat PetitTea Time TreatsLets cook for Halloween

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cake balls or cake pops

Cake Balls

Cake balls or cake pops

Cake balls.   Cake pops.   Balls.  Pops.  Balls.  Whatever you want to call these, they are fun, tasty and absolutely morish.  We didn’t have these when I was a child but even so, they remind me of the type of treats we used to get a children’s parties.

You may be thinking that they are just for kids.   Or even that they are something I made with Little Miss Spice.   Oh no.  Sometimes I want to play at being a child all on my own. I want to be able to have fun in the kitchen without a little person grabbing things and deciding what the finished product is going to look like.

I know that Little Miss Spice would love mixing up cake and melted chocolate with her hands.   She would also love dipping the cake balls in the liquid chocolate and rolling them in the sprinkles

The truth is, I also wanted to do all those things, and I wanted to do them by myself for once.   Cake balls may look like a kid’s thing, but I don’t know many adults who would say no to one of these.

They are surprisingly easy to make.   If you had leftover cake they would take next to no time to make.   But honestly, who has leftover cake?  Most of the time I am wishing I had cake!

Of course I had to make cake.   I made a beautifully simple Madeira cake from Cake by Rachel Allen.  It is made with soft dark brown sugar which makes a lovely moist cake with a caramel taste that goes so well with all the chocolate that you need later when you turn it into cake balls.  I used sticks to put the cake balls on which makes it easier when you are coating them in chocolate and rolling them in sprinkles but you could easily not bother with the sticks.   Don’t feel you have to buy anything specially to make this recipe.  Well, apart from sprinkles, chocolate, cake or cake ingredients.

Anyway, going back to the name.  Balls.   Pops.   Balls.   It had to be balls.  You may have heard of the #FeelingNuts movement, encouraging all men to become more aware of testicular cancer and to regularly check themselves.   Well, today the movement will be at the Urban Food Fest in Shoreditch and along with a number of other bloggers I have made my own ball related food.  If you’d like to know more then follow @check_one_two on Twitter.

If you just want to make cake balls then read on.

Ingredients for the Madeira cake

175g softened butter

175g soft dark brown sugar

5 eggs

275g self-raising flour

How to Make the Madeira Cake

  1. Turn the oven on to 180C.  Grease or line a cake or loaf tin.   I used a round 20cm cake tin.

  2. Beat the butter with a whisk until it is soft and then add the sugar and continue to beat until it is well combined and is light and fluffy.

  3. Whisk the eggs briefly in another bowl and then pour them into the butter and sugar mixture slowly as you beat it.

  4. Sift the flour into the bowl and then fold it in.

  5. Pour the cake batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 35 – 45 minutes.   Mine was ready after 35 minutes.

  6. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then take it out and cool it on a wire rack.

Ingredients for the Cake Balls – Makes 20 (Recipe also from Cake by Rachel Allen)

350g Madeira cake

175g white chocolate

400g milk chocolate (I found this was way too much so you could probably get away with using 300g)

Your choice of spinkles to decorate with

How to Make the Cake Balls

  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Melt the white chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave.  Put it in for 1 minute to begin with and then for 20 seconds at a time.  Keep opening the door to check it and to stir it.

  3. Crumble the cake into the bowl with the white chocolate.   Use your hands to mix the chocolate and the cake together and roll handfuls into balls.   Press the mixture together so the balls are quite dense and then place them on the baking paper on the baking tray.

  4. If using sticks then push a stick into each ball.   Put the baking tray in the fridge for the cake balls to set and harden.  Leave for at least 30 minutes.   I left mine overnight.

  5. Get the sprinkles ready by putting them in bowls.   Have a teaspoon for each bowl too.  Also line another 2 baking trays with baking paper.

  6. Melt the milk chocolate in the same way as you melted the white chocolate.   Dip each cake ball in the chocolate.   You may need to use a spoon to make sure the ends with the sticks in also have chocolate on them.  Spoon the chocolate on if you are not able to get it on just by rolling the cake balls.  If any of the sticks come out then just dip the end in the chocolate to help it stick and push it back in.

  7. As soon as you take the cake ball out of the chocolate, roll it in the sprinkles.   Again, use a spoon to spoon sprinkles onto the bits of the cake ball around the stick.

  8. Lay the cake balls down on the baking trays and put in the fridge to set.

As the cake contains dark brown sugar I am linking these to Love Cake, hosted by JibberjabberUK.   The theme this month is ‘dark’.  I am also linking to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge at I’d Much Rather Bake Than….  The theme is comfort foods.

Love CakeThe Biscuit Barrel Challenge


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Nutella Brownie Cake

You’re going to start thinking I’m sponsored by Nutella soon.   I wish!  I just love seeing really really easy recipes and as I don’t have much time to bake, when I do see something I want to make, I grasp the opportunity as quickly as possible.  I wasn’t planning to do any baking at all yesterday.  I know it was father’s day and maybe my husband deserved a cake for being such a good dad to our little girl, but the thought of making a cake had not crossed my mind until suddenly, looking on Facebook I saw a recipe that a friend had shared – 3 ingredient Nutella Brownies.   I love Nutella and I do love brownies.   And I could not believe how easy this recipe looked.   Despite having cheesecake in the fridge already, I could not resist making this cake.

So did it live up to expectations?  Well, it wasn’t quite a brownie but it did taste like one.  It was a bit drier than I’d have liked but that may have been my fault as I could have taken it out of the oven a little earlier.  I’d say, if you were expecting brownies, you would be a little disappointed, but if you were expecting a chocolate cake, you’d be perfectly happy.   I would like to make it again and next time I will take it out of the oven earlier and hopefully have a more brownie-like cake.

I am linking this to Sugar and Slice Sunday.

Nutella cake slice (500x458)

Ingredients – serves 8

250g Nutella

62g self-raising flour

2 eggs

How to Make Nutella Brownies

1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. Line a tin with baking parchment and grease the sides.  Pour the mixture in.

3. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 180C.  This will give you a cake-like texture.  Next time I will cook it for just 20 minutes.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

I have had such a busy month and I realise writing this post just before the deadline that the last post I did was also for the Secret Recipe Club.  I really will have to try and do better in the next month.  So, this month I was paired with Heather from Join Us Pull Up A Chair.  She also began blogging as a way of organising her recipes and there were lots of delicious recipes to choose from.  I was torn between trying her sweet potato hummus and this recipe for apple and cinnamon cake.  In the end, the apple cake won as I had some apples that were turning a bit soft and as I don’t like to throw things away, a cake seemed the best way of using them up.  I also love the combination of apple and cinnamon, as you can probably tell from my baked apple pancake, apple and cinnamon and raisin scones and apple and cinnamon crumble.

The finished cake was really delicious, really soft and moist.  Just as delicious as I’d imagined.   The only change I would make next time would be to use slightly less sugar as I found there to be a little too much cinnamon sugar on the top and so a large piece felt just a little too sweet for me.

I am also linking this to Sugar and Slice Sunday.

apple cinnamon cake (500x390)


200g + 100g sugar

115g room temperature unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

170g room-temperature cream cheese

2 eggs

200g self-raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

390g chopped peeled apple (5 apples, peeled, cored and diced) (much less than in original recipe)

How to Make Cinnamon Apple Cake

  1. Put 200g sugar, the butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese in a bowl and beat together.  Then add the eggs, one at a time and beat after each one.

  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and then add to the wet mixture.  Beat until combined.

  3. In another bowl mix the cinnamon into the rest of the sugar.   Add 4 tablespoons to the chopped apple and stir to coat.

  4. Add the apples to the cake batter.

  5. Line the bottom of a 9 inch cake tin with baking parchment and coat the sides with oil or butter.  Spoon the batter into the cake tin.

  6. Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the cake and bake in the oven at 180C for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

  7. Cool on a wire rack.

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To see what other Secret Recipe Club participants have made, click on the link below:

Mastic Cake and a Baby

She’s finally arrived – Little Miss Spice was born on 22 April, weighing 7lbs 4 (3.3kg).  We’re now back at home and trying to get used to our new life which seems to be full of an endless cycle of washing, changing nappies, crying, feeding, sleeping and starting all over again so I’m not sure how much blogging is going to get done over the next few weeks (I have been writing this post for almost a week!).   But, she’s worth it, and absolutely gorgeous.

It’s hard to remember life before she arrived but a few weeks ago I was reading a post on Katrina’s blog, Culinary Flavours, about a Greek mastic flavoured pastry.   I’d never heard of mastic and so was delighted when Katrina very kindly offered to send me some.  It is a resin from the mastic tree and has an unusual pine/cedar type flavour.  Have a look at Katrina’s blog for more information about it.

Well, when I received the mastic I was in a cake baking mood and so I decided to make a mastic scented cake.  I researched flavours that go with mastic and came up with cardamom and decided to make a mastic and cardamom cake.   I was advised that mastic is a very strong flavour and can be an acquired taste and so to use very little to begin with.   I found a basic recipe and halved all the quantities to make a smaller cake and used less than the recommended amount of mastic too. I added cardamom hoping that it would balance out the mastic and go well with the ground almond, but in the end I couldn’t taste the cardamom as the mastic overpowered it. Overall, it was a lovely soft almondy cake but I couldn’t decide whether I liked the mastic or not.   It was different and interesting but part of me thought, I would rather just eat almond and cardamom cake as the mastic left a slight aftertaste.  Maybe I overdid it a little.   Next time I will add just a pinch of ground mastic and will up the cardamom. So, even though this was not a complete success, I’m pleased to have tried something new and especially grateful to Katrina for sending the mastic.


125g ground almonds

125g icing sugar

110g butter

2 eggs

75g self-raising flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

2g mastic(but would use much less next time)

1 tsp caster sugar

2 cardamom pods

How to Make Mastic and Cardamom Cake

1. Put the mastic, caster sugar and the seeds from 2 cardamom pods in a spice grinder.    Grind to a powder.   Put this powder in a large mixing bowl with the ground almonds, icing sugar and butter.    Cream together.

2. Add the egg and beat with a whisk.  Then add the self-raising flour and baking powder and whisk until everything is combined.

3. Put the mixture in a greased cake tin and bake in the oven at about 170C for 45 minutes.

Ginger Cake

This looks like ginger cake and tastes like ginger cake, but I’m not really sure if I should call it that.    The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of ground ginger but as I was in the middle of making the cake I discovered I only had half a teaspoon left in the jar.     Well one of the ingredients in mixed spice is ginger so I just added a bit extra, hoping it would do the trick, and yes, it seemed to work.  Maybe I should have called it mixed spice cake or even just called it golden syrup cake, seeing as that is one of the main ingredients.   And maybe that is one of the reasons this stays so moist and maybe also the reason why you get the lovely slightly gooey layer on top of the cake.   In looks it is very similar to the carrot cake I made a couple of weeks ago, but I managed to claim the carrot cake was fairly healthy as far as carrot cakes go.   Unfortunately I can’t claim the same for this, but as long as you cut it into small squares to serve, it really doesn’t feel so bad.

I made this cake as part of Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge.   As Belleau Kitchen is celebrating its second birthday we had to randomly choose a recipe from a baking book or the baking section of a book.  I don’t actually have many baking books but I picked Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton and I have to admit, I fancied making a cake so I did severely limit the section of the book too to be sure I picked something I wanted to make.  I have to say, I’m fairly pleased with all my baking efforts recently.   I used to say I wasn’t really a baker but I’m already thinking of what sweet treat I can make next!

I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday and Cookbook Sundays.

Ingredients – serves 12 (slightly adapted from Step by Step Baking)

225g self-raising flour

110g unsalted butter or margarine

200g golden syrup

110g soft brown sugar

200ml milk

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 egg

How to Make Ginger Cake

1. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large mixing bowl.

2. Put the butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk into a small saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved.

3. Pour the liquid from the saucepan into the mixing bowl with the flour.    Whisk well and then beat in the egg too.

4. Line the bottom of a square 18cm cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides.   Pour the mixture into the tin.    Bake in the oven at about 170C for 35 minutes.   Test with a skewer and bake for a bit longer if it comes out wet.

5. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.