September 24, 2012


When I first looked at the We Should Cocoa challenge for this month, organised by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot, which is for something with a cocktail theme, I knew straight away what I would like to make.

margarita cake 1 There is only one cocktail that I ever drink – a margarita.


We developed a taste for margaritas when we were on holiday in America a few years ago.  We spent three nights in Las Vegas (three nights is more than enough for anyone I think!) and although it was the first week in October it was baking hot.

One very sultry afternoon, the Strip was heaving with perspiring tourists and we were getting tired and suffering from sensory overload.  Las Vegas is that kind of place.  Too much gosh factor for my little country girl’s brain to take in.  So we dived into the nearest bar, which happened to be Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. 

We tasted our first margaritas and from that moment we were hooked.  We spent the rest of the holiday sampling margaritas at every opportunity.  Everybody does them and they’re all different.  A bit like a sherry trifle !! 

margaritaWhen we got home we did some intensive research to find the perfect margarita recipe and Jimmy Buffet’s turned out to be the one we liked the most.  We even managed to get a set of those rather naff cactus stem margarita glasses to serve them in !!  Believe me, when you get home from work, you’ve had a really bad day, it’s cold and raining, there’s nothing exciting for dinner and you desperately need a boost, there’s nothing beats a margarita to do just that.  My theory is it’s the limes !!  The high zing factor of the cocktail puts the sparkle back into a Tuesday evening and even makes sausage and mash look interesting !!

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I didn’t have to look far for a recipe combining chocolate and margaritas.  In Nigella’s book “Kitchen” she has “flourless chocolate lime cake with margarita cream”.

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This is another recipe for a flourless chocolate torte kind of cake.  It’s also gluten free if you use the right kind of baking powder (or cream of tartar and bicarb instead).  It was easy to make and for some reason Lulu got very excited.  Maybe she associates the smell of lime juice with a very pleasant evening and the possibility of a left-over sausage – who knows what goes on in a dog’s mind ??!!

margarita cake 5I had trouble deciding whether the cake was cooked, as you can tell from the number of holes poked in the top.  In the end I took it out of the oven when the maximum baking time was up, even though my tester was still coming out of the cake with mixture stuck to it.  I reasoned that it was meant to be a moist cake and I didn’t want it to be too dry.

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The cake is served with a margarita cream, made by whisking together double cream, icing sugar, tequila, triple sec and lime juice. 

margarita cake 7 The whole thing was divine.  The cake was beautifully moist with just the right amount of chocolate and a hint of lime.  The cream was light, fluffy and fragrant.  It made a fabulous dessert to serve to our guests.

The cake itself is now my joint favourite of its type.  I have made several flourless chocolate tortes and some are far too rich and intensely chocolatey for my taste.  This one is just right.  (My other favourite is the Linda Collister recipe which I wrote about here.)

The interesting thing is, I don’t cook that many of Nigella’s recipes but I often go back to them over and over again.  This is going to be one of those I think.  I followed it to the letter and you can see it here.

September 16, 2012


Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge at Bellau Kitchen is a bit different this month – he’s joining forces with Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, to hold a Teatime Random Recipe.

This is how I came to pass a happy time gathering some of my favourite baking books, choosing one at random and turning the page at random to reveal……….

minimuffin 1

…….a recipe for pear and blue cheese mini muffins.

The more observant of you will notice that this is not the same as the title of the post.  This is because I didn’t have any blue cheese in stock, but I did have some goat’s cheese.  So I decided to use that.

The book is an M&S cookbook called “1 mix, 100 muffins” by Susanna Tee.  It has been lurking on my bookshelf for some time but I have never made anything from it.  When I let it fall open the last thing I expected was a recipe for savoury muffins, let alone mini ones.  But I do possess a mini muffin tin so that was ok. minimuffin 2 And there’s nothing wrong with having something savoury with all those cakes, scones and buns served as a teatime treat, so that’s ok too.

I am also linking this recipe to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, organised by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes.  This month the letter of the alphabet is “P”.  Pear begins with a P so that’s ok too.

The mini muffins were an absolute delight.  The recipe makes 48 mini muffins – all the recipes in the book will make 48 minis or 12 standard muffins.  I didn’t need 48 so I made 24 minis and 6 regular muffins.  They were scrummy.

minimuffin 4The book is true to it’s title – pretty much all the recipes are the same basic formula with little variations.  Further exploration revealed that I could have made prawn and parsley, parmesan and pine nut, smoked salmon and dill, brie and redcurrant…..and lots of other flavours of gorgeous little mini muffins.

Next time we have visitors, or a party, I shall be baking these delicious little morsels again………they would be perfect served as nibbles at apéro time I think.

A note at the beginning of the book says that all the muffins therein are perfect for freezing. Thaw for 2-3 hours and reheat on a baking tray at 180C/ 160fan/ gas mk 4, for 10-15 minutes. Now that’s a very handy tip, I think.

Pear and goat’s cheese mini muffins.


280g plain flour

1 tblsp baking powder

a large pinch of salt

black pepper

2 medium eggs

250 ml milk

6 tblsp sunflower oil

a 400g can pear halves

100g goat’s cheese

40g walnut pieces


Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°fan/ gas mk 6.  Grease two 24-hole mini muffin tins (or one 12-hole regular tin).

Drain the pears and chop them into small pieces.  Chop or crumble the cheese.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Stir in the chopped pears and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

Lightly beat the eggs and mix with the milk and oil.  Add to the other ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Scatter the walnut pieces over the top.

Bake for about 15 minutes until risen, golden and firm to the touch.  (If making regular muffins, bake for about 20 minutes.)  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

Makes 48 mini muffins or 12 regular ones.

September 8, 2012


I spotted a recipe in a magazine recently which was entitled “Bakewell cake”.  It was for an almond flavoured sponge with blackberries in.   It looked like a nice recipe and I happened to have some blackberries so I thought I would give it a try.

bakewell cake8

Early September is my favourite time of year.  It’s still almost summer but not quite almost autumn.  This year the weather is perfect – the days are deliciously warm and the light has that characteristically mellow golden tinge.  So much nicer than the vicious heat and harsh sun of July and August – not that we’ve had much of that this July and August.  Maybe that’s it.  We expect so little of September but it nearly always surprises us with its warmth, whereas July and August so often disappoint.

bakewell cake1 bakewell cake2

Lulu and I had been out blackberrying the very afternoon that I came across the recipe.  I collected about a pound of blackberries.  But I also had half a punnet of shop-bought ones in the fridge that needed using up.  So I decided to use those for the “Bakewell cake” and freeze my foraged blackberries to cheer us up with a crumble later in the year.

bakewell cake3 bakewell cake4

As the half punnet was not quite enough for the recipe, I added some chopped strawberries to make up the quantity.  Hence I decided to call the cake “Berry Bakewell Cake”, and it was scrummy.

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It was dead easy to make.  A simple creamed sponge mixture with the fruit, demerara sugar and flaked almonds scattered on top.

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After half an hour in the oven the cake was beginning to look browned so I put a piece of foil on top of it to prevent it the fruit from burning.  I enjoyed a slice in the garden, with the gentle sunshine and a nice cup of tea.

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I would definitely make it again.  It had a sort of rustic sophistication – pretty enough to serve to special friends on a sunny afternoon, easy enough to make for a lunchbox treat.
The only slight change I would make to the recipe is to halve the amount of almond essence, to make the flavour balanced more towards the fruit and less towards the almonds.  More of a berry cake than a Bakewell, in fact.

Berry Bakewell Cake.
(recipe adapted from Morrisons supermarket magazine)

150g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp almond essence (I would suggest trying ½ a tsp)

100g ground almonds

80g self-raising flour

100g blackberries

100g strawberries, halved

30g flaked almonds

2 tblsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4.  Line the base of a 20cm springform cake tin with baking paper and grease the sides (or spray with cake release spray).

In a large bowl, or food mixer, beat the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the beaten eggs, almond essence, flour and ground almonds and mix thoroughly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level the surface.  Scatter the fruit on top.  Sprinkle the flaked almonds and demerara sugar on top of that and bake for 50-60 minutes, covering the top loosely with a piece of foil after 30 minutes.

Cool on a rack.  Serve with tea and sunshine in the garden.

Cuts into 8 generous slices.

September 3, 2012


I first saw these little morsels of tastiness on TV when Lorraine Pascale made them in her first series, possibly even in her very first programme.  They looked both dead easy to make and very yummy in equal measures, so when we were chez nous in our little French house, expecting visitors, I was thinking about something quick to make for pre-dinner nibbles and decided to give them a go.


I made some tomato ones, using a jar of “delices de tomatoes”, which is a sort of sundried tomato paste.  I also sprinkled on some grated parmesan cheese for good measure.  They were made in a jiffy and went down very well with our guests.

palmiers1 palmiers1a


Later in the week, with the help of my young baker friends, Isabella and Amélie (more about that later), I also made some Speculoos ones, using a jar of Speculoos spread.  The idea came from one of those little mini French recipe books that you find in petrol stations and supermarkets.  The actual recipe was for pinwheels but I made them into palmiers instead.  They were also a big hit, especially with the two girls !!

palmiers4 palmiers5 


Definitely worth doing again and the variations of fillings are, I suspect, endless.

Here’s how I made the palmiers.


One pack of ready-rolled, ready-made puff pastry

A jar of sundried tomato paste, or Speculoos spread


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan/gas mk 6.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Unfold the pastry and, if it’s a French pastry and therefore a circle,  trim into a square or oblong shape. 

Spread the pastry thinly with your choice of flavouring, right up to the edge.

With the shorter end nearest to you, roll each longer side of the pastry towards the middle, making a sort of double sausage shape – it helps to mark the centre of pastry sheet so you know where to stop rolling.  Brush the inside edges where the two rolls meet with a little beaten egg, milk or water so they stick together.

Cut your double sausage into thin slices using a sharp knife.  Place them well apart on the two baking sheets to allow room for spreading.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden.

Allow to cool on the sheets for a few minutes then transfer to a rack.  Allow to cool completely before serving.

Makes approx. 24 palmiers.