Birthday Cake

After much humming and hah-ing about what cake to make for my daughter’s 2nd birthday I came up with a grassy knoll….

Not very exhilarating you may think, but atop it will be plonked, er carefully placed, Ben & Holly’s castle.  I was going to make Gaston the ladybird from the same series, but there is no way I am going to be able to get to the shops for black and red gel in time unless Waitrose get here tout de suite.  So grassy knoll it is with a few toadstools and perhaps a mini Gaston to decorate.
If you don’t have small children you will have no ides what I’m talking about, but suffice to say it’s a pre-school TV program that is funny enough for adults to enjoy (due to a very sarcastic Nanny Plum) and Littlest loves it.
The recipe I am using is an old favourite – very easy to make and it really is the most moist, scrummy chocolate cake ever.  At every birthday party, people can’t believe I made it.  I am never sure whether to take that as a compliment or not…
Anyway, it is, of course, a Nigella recipe from her book Feast.  I am wont to cheat and when time is tight use Betty Crocker instead of the given icing recipe, but shhh!  Don’t tell!

For the cake:

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
40g best quality cocoa
175g soft, unsalted butter
2 large eggs (free range please!)
2 tsps vanilla extract (NOT essence!)
150ml sour cream


Preheat oven to 140ºC/gas mark 4.  Line two 20cm cake tins.

Bung all the ingredients into your kitchenaid/food processor and mix until you have a smooth, thick batter.  Divide between the two tins and bake for about 35 minutes but do check according to how your oven bakes (Mine new oven seems to cook very quickly and I take them out about 20-25 mins!).  I also put a small dish of water in the bottom of the oven to keep the sponge moist.
Leave to cool for 10 mins before turning them out of their tins and cooling on a wire rack.

I fill with 1/3 tub of Betty Crocker choc fudge icing and then splat the rest over the top.  Then leave as is, or decorate with flowers, mini-eggs, whatever takes your fancy!

My Easter cake, decorated by the kids!

Or, I have smoothed over some warmed apricot jam and then rolled icing to make a variety of party cakes.


Ah-ha!  I think I hear the soft rumble of a Waitrose van….Let the cake-making commence!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

So desperate was I for a biscuit with my cup of tea, I tried one of my daughter’s baby biscuits.  Not going to do that again in a hurry.  So I thought, sod it, I’ll make some.  Where better to turn for baking than the Great British Bake Off cook book.  I actually had all the ingredients and got to work.  Then something happened that was definitely not in the recipe.

With Kitchenaid in full swing, I dropped the entire egg into the mix.  There were two obvious options.  (1) Swear loudly, bin in the lot, forget about biscuits and sulk.  (2) Swear loudly, pick out the eggshell and carry on regardless.  I went for option two and biscuits were made.

Alas, they weren’t terribly nice.  Nice enough for me to have two before they’d cooled, but not great.  The only think I changed was dark muscovado sugar not light and I can’t believe that makes a huge difference.  They were quite cakey and actually not very sweet.  Baked well, easy recipe (apart from the egg debacle) but not one I’d make again.  Any recipes for choc chip cookies welcome as I have been looking for a really good recipe for ages and every one I try just doesn’t quite match up to Millie’s Cookies……

Blueberry Tart

My latest bake was Blueberry Tart from Joanne Harris’ book – The French Kitchen.  Yes, she’s the one who wrote Chocolat.  And yes, to my satisfaction there was a section in the recipe book called just that.
This blueberry tart is like the ones you find in French patisseries and looks really difficult, tasted divine and is easy peasy to make – pastry and all!
I initially served it warm with some Haagen Dazs vanilla ice-cream, but then we took the dogs for a walk and scoffed the rest cold with a cup of tea (it should be cold) and I think it was even nicer.
Anyway, you know it’s good when your guests have seconds and ask for the recipe!

Recipe for Disaster

I love this cartoon!  It really does sum up my attempts at cooking!  I have never understood how a recipe can be published when they just don’t work.  You can follow it to the last gram and still it turns out to be a disaster.  Are these recipes even given a test run?  Or are they just made in a big purpose built kitchen and not tried in a normal kitchen with a small oven and limited workspace?  After all, they are written for the likes of you and me and not fellow chefs.  I hope!

Of course, it could just be that I have limited cooking skills!  More likely….

Boeuf Bourguignon

Ha!  I can finally spell it without looking it up!  
Today’s supper (or tomorrow’s lunch) is to be Beouf Bourguignon, something I’ve never cooked before.  I am going to use the Lorraine Pascale recipe as I seem to get on very well with her (except the paella….).  I was explaining to Husband what is it and he replied ‘So, it’s basically stew?’.  Well, yes I suppose so but stew doesn’t sound very sexy whereas boeuf bourguignon makes you slide into a dodgy French accent and alliterate.
Anyway, it doesn’t look too tricky and I do like a recipe you can make one day and serve the next with the notion it improves with standing.  Chilli is great for that.  I am hoping the kids will try some although I imagine they’ll take one look and ask for sandwiches.


Boeuf is in the oven.  I am slightly worried for two reasons.  One is that I am only making it for me and the old man so I halved the recipe and I am a bit worried about cooking times…..Maybe I should have made the whole lot and frozen half?  It is meant to cook for 2.5 hours so I reckon I’ll knock off half an hour…..*fingers crossed*
Secondly, the recipe seems so easy I am concerned about how I am going to mess it up, which I invariably will.  Perhaps my recipe halving will have done the trick, or the fact that I put all the liquid as Marsala when I should have halved it with Burgundy or stock…..(I know, Marsala is Italian but Lorraine assures me it works.  Just annoys the French).
Ooh!  It was lovely!  So much so, Husband and I mopped up the juices with the kids’ leftover chips (I know, shocking behaviour) and I am making it again for friends coming over next Sunday lunch.   I actually forgot to take a photo of my wondrous creation, so I have posted somebody else’s instead, but it looked very similar…..yum!

Julia Child

Julia Child

On recommendation of BFF I have just watched the film Julie/Julia which is about two things I love, no – make that three.  Blogging, Cooking and Feisty Women.  I am resisting the urge to buy the cookbook now, having already hopped straight on to Amazon.  I have appeased myself by buying the kindle version of her life in France, but am quite keen to get ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ although I doubt I will cook from it as much I suppose.  I bought Elizabeth David’s ‘At Elizabeth David’s Table’ after seeing a docu-film on her and haven’t actually cooked from it although I do like to read it and think about her very interesting life (another feisty woman!).  I have a feeling Julia Child’s book may be too Americanised in its measures (I really don’t get ‘sticks’ of butter) and doubtless too meaty.  As a recent carnivore after 18 years of vegetarianism I still struggle to deal with meat that looks like it’s origin.  So I don’t think de-boning a duck is a likely occurrence in my kitchen!  However, I will put it on my birthday list – nobody ever knows what to get and it is something that I would really like to add to my cookbook collection.  Browsing through a cookbook with a pile of post-its and a cup of tea is always a good way to waste time.

A few days later……

Have decided not to be such a wuss and bloomin’ well cook a recipe!  Have spent more indulgent minutes browsing through Elizabeth David and reckon if I start off with something simple, I might even be able to work my way up the trickiness scale!As homage to Julia Child, I am making Beouf Bourguignon this weekend although, alas, not her recipe as I haven’t got the book!  Definitely laying large hints for my impending birthday……Lorraine Pascale it is (love her!)