Posts Tagged: cake

Dec 14

Gingerbread man cake and biscuits

Christmas seems to begin earlier each year (well in the bakery it certainly does, we are planning cakes for Christmas 2015 already!). We began making our Christmas fruit cakes in September-and have been producing 1000’s of seasonal cakes and biscuits of all shapes and sizes ever since-right up to a few days before Christmas Day. Maybe you have baked my delicious fruit cake (see November blog) and it is stored away maturing nicely. If not –as long as you still have a couple of weeks minimum for all the wonderful flavours to mingle, mellow and work their magic, then do bake it if you feel so inclined. This month I describe in detail how to marzipan and ice your cake, and decorate it simply with gingerbread men.

Alternatively make a simple batch of little gingerbread men –wrapped in cellophane bags they make great edible gifts, stocking fillers or hang on your Christmas tree!

These gingerbread men can be baked and decorated now all ready for Christmas-or cut out snowflakes, stars or Christmas trees-whatever takes your fancy!

TIP. If making tree decorations, make a hole at the top of the biscuit(you can use a straw or skewer), and on removal from oven re form, as the holes may have closed slightly. Once cold, thread a narrow ribbon through and form a loop. Alternatively, make the dough, cut out and layer the unbaked biscuits in freezer containers-layered up with baking parchment. Bake fresh as required.

Your home will be filled with the wonderful scent of Christmas!

Happy Baking and Happy Christmas!

Next Month. –a simple Lemon Drizzle Crunch cake. Just the thing after all the excesses of the Festive season.



A great classic Christmas cake for all the family; there’s always someone who doesn’t like fruit cake, so they can eat the gingerbread men!

Makes 40 slices

1 x Rich Tamarind Fruit Cake
1/ 2 x batch Gingerbread dough (see below)
4 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
1kg marzipan (see below)
1 tbsp brandy or boiled water
icing sugar, to dust
1kg sugarpaste
6cm gingerbread man cutter
9cm gingerbread man cutter
6 cocktail sticks
30g bag black royal icing
30g bag red royal icing
60g bag white royal icing
bag of mini chocolate beans

Turn the cake upside down on to a cake stand. A dab of apricot jam will stop it moving around. If there are any holes or the cake is a dodgy shape, correct it now with little bits of marzipan. Once you are happy, brush all over with jam. Knead the marzipan until pliable. Dust a work surface with icing sugar and, using a little more on the rolling pin, roll the marzipan into a rough circle slightly larger than the top and sides of the cake and about 5mm thick. Lift on to the cake, smoothing all over, and cut off any excess. Leave overnight to firm up.


Brush the marzipan with the brandy and, on a clean, flat surface, knead the sugarpaste until pliable. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out the sugarpaste in a rough circle about 5mm thick and slightly larger than the diameter of the cake and sides. Lift the sugarpaste with your hands (or loosely wrap it around the rolling pin) and place it over the cake. Gently smooth with your hands and cut away any excess. Leave overnight to harden.

Preheat the oven to 180.C/fan 170.C/350.F/gas mark 4. Roll the gingerbread dough out to 4mm thick and cut out 12 large and 12 small men. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment and lay out the
shapes; smaller on 1 tray (they take less time to bake) and larger on the other. Press 2 cocktail sticks on to the backs of the legs of 3 smaller men so they will stand up later. Bake for 8–15 minutes, depending on size. The gingerbread will darken. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Pipe black eyes and red mouths on the large men and stick on red mini bean noses.


Pipe black eyes and red noses and mouths on the small. Stick 3 buttons on the large men and 2 on the small. Surround the cake with the larger men, propped against it, dabbing their heads with a little royal icing to adhere. Carefully position the 3 men on sticks on the top of the cake. You will have 9 little men left over to serve separately.



Once you have wrapped the dough in clingfilm to chill, you can store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to a month so they are ready to bake at any time.

Makes about 40

350g plain flour, plus more
to dust
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/ 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g salted butter, very
slightly softened
1 egg yolk
150g light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp black treacle
zest of 1 orange, finely grated

Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and add the butter, cut into small chunks. Gently rub together with your fingertips – or pulse in a food processor – until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs

Add the egg yolk, sugar, syrup, treacle and zest and mix together until you have a firm dough. If it’s too sticky, mix in a little more flour. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180.C/fan 170.C/350.F/gas mark 4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 4mm thick, and cut out with a 6.5cm round cutter. Bake for 10–15 minutes. The gingerbreads will have darkened a little.

Remove from the oven and leave to firm up a little for a few minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool. They will become crisp.


makes about 600g, enough to cover a 20cm cake

190g icing sugar
380g ground almonds
3 tsp lemon juice
3 egg yolks
4 drops almond essence

In a bowl, mix the icing sugar and almonds. In another bowl, mix the lemon juice, egg yolks and almond essence. Add the egg mixture gradually to the icing sugar and almonds and knead everything just until it forms a stiff paste. (It will become oily if overworked.) Store in a polythene bag in the refrigerator (use within a week).

Jul 14

Ice-cream cone cakes

One of my earliest childhood memories was the excitement of hearing the ice-cream van jingle every Saturday afternoon. My brother and I would dash to greet it, pennies tightly clasped in our little hands. It was a very tricky decision, as a six-year-old, to choose just one ice from the van’s exotic display!

So, whatever our unpredictable British summer throws at us this year – a stunning heat wave or just grey drizzle – ice-creams just have to make an appearance on the kitchen menu.

Ice-cream cones

Ice-cream cones

Any little treats that don’t require hours of slaving in the kitchen are perfect, especially during the summer months when appetites may be smaller.

You might need to look twice at these… are they freshly churned? Flake 99? Raspberry ripple and mint-choc chip? No, these are in fact cakes!

Dead simple, quite quick to bak e and ideal for all that summer entertaining. They are great at impromptu barbecues, picnics and kids’ parties and will even keep children occupied in the kitchen for an hour or so during the interminable summer break, if you don’t mind the mess… Oh, and they won’t melt! Surprisingly the cakes are actually baked in the cones, which form an edible cupcake case.


In the hot weather, buttercream can easily become too soft to pipe. If this happens to you, place the bowl of buttercream in the fridge for a short spell – 15–20 minutes should do it – to firm up a little. If it becomes too hard, beat it again, adding 1 tbsp of boiling water; it will soon become creamy and easy to pipe once more.


Bake the cakes, if you can, on the day they are to be eaten or, if necessary, the day before, but no longer as they tend to dry out inside the cones. The buttercream can be made ahead and even frozen, but will need to be beaten again, as above.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to bake these ice-cream cones, pop along to Waitrose patisserie counter, where you will find an array of individual summer treats. We have created a cute summer box of fairy cakes, decorated with little ice creams, bunting and bumblebees, and even a summer tea party box of fairy cakes decorated with a tiny tea pot, cup and strawberries.

The simple and quite delicious British summer classic dessert, Eton Mess, is made with strawberries, meringues and cream. One of the many stories behind its creation has it that a perfectly constructed meringue dessert was mangled during the car journey to a picnic at Eton College… Luckily, however you combine British summer berries, meringues and cream, it will taste delicious.

Look out for our Raspberry Eton Mess cupcake in Waitrose, or make the dessert yourself with home-made or ready-made meringues.

In the summer, it would be criminal not to make the most of our delicious home-grown berries and fruits. And remember that, during the summer months, individual portions of dessert can be much easier to serve, especially for picnics, barbecues and other moveable feasts, so try meringues, individual pavlovas, tartlets, summer puddings… I could go on!

Ice-cream cones

Ice-creams that won’t melt! A perfect addition to any children’s party or picnic, especially during the summer. These are decorated as the real things – flake 99, raspberry ripple or mint choc chip – but use your imagination and get the children to give you a hand. These cakes are baked in ice-cream cones, so eat them quickly as they will start to dry out after a day or so. That shouldn’t prove difficult!

Makes 20-25

1 x Orange Drizzle Cake batter
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 large oranges, plus 75ml orange juice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour, sifted
20-25 flat-based ice-cream cones
1 x recipe Buttercream
300g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar, sifted
few drops of peppermint extract
green food colour
1 tsp vanilla extract
pink (or red) food colour
nylon piping bag
large star nozzle
7-8 chocolate flakes
7 tsp tiny chocolate buttons
5 tsp coloured sugar sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 160C/340F/gas mark 3 ½. Cream the butter, sugar and zest until very pale, light and fluffy (it will take at least 5 minutes in an electric mixer). Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition, along with 1 tbsp of the flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the remaining flour and, lastly, slowly mix in the orange juice.

Place all the ice-cream cones on a baking sheet. Divide the cake batter evenly between them and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until they spring back to the touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter in an electric mixer until really pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and beat for at least 5 minutes, until light and creamy.

Divide the buttercream between 3 bowls. Add a little peppermint extract to the first, to taste, then a dash of green food colour, and mix until you achieve the desired shade. Add the vanilla to the second bowl and mix well. To the third bowl, swirl in a little pink food colour; do not blend it in as you are aiming for the marbled effect of raspberry ripple ice-cream.

Spoon the vanilla buttercream into the piping bag and swirl on to a third of the ice-cream cones. Finish each with a chocolate flake. Wash the bag and nozzle and repeat with the green buttercream; sprinkling with chocolate buttons. Wash the bag and nozzle again. Finally pipe the raspberry ripple buttercream into the remaining cones and decorate with sprinkles.

Arrange on a serving dish or cake stand.

Jun 14

My Strawberry and Elderflower Cake

I am truly thrilled to be writing this, my first column for HELLO! Our nation’s interest in baking cakes and cupcakes has exploded, and baking has really captured our imaginations. In fact it has become one of our favourite pastimes… as can be seen from the phenomenal success of the now must-watch Great British Bake Off!

I caught the baking and cake decorating bug (dare I say) almost 30 years ago. My husband Kishore saw potential at the kitchen table and we grew the company from there. If I’d had a crystal ball back then I would never have believed that my business would have started and grown over the years to have almost 100 employees. I still love baking as much as ever, which if I am honest surprises even me!

So, for all you bakers (and aspiring bakers) out there, I will be giving a recipe each month that I hope you will enjoy. I do try to follow the seasons in my kitchen, as many of us do, and this includes in my baking, as you will see.

Strawberry and Cream Cake

Strawberry and Cream Cake


I wouldn’t dream of buying asparagus at Christmas, flown many air miles to reach the shelves of our supermarkets. The thrill and expectation of savouring fresh-picked British asparagus throughout May never fades. Each season has its own moods and wonderful produce to offer, which I reflect in my cakes.

Light airy fruit-filled sponges and pavlovas in the summer months; comforting, richer cakes in the autumn; and, in winter, sticky gingerbreads, decadent chocolate cakes and spiced fruit cakes… it just makes sense.

No surprise at all then, that for my first HELLO! recipe in June I have chosen to include another all-time British classic, our home-grown strawberries. It is well worth searching out sweet, sun-kissed strawberries as there are so many varieties available right through our summer months and some are much better than others.

Try a few varieties out until you find one you prefer… you do not have to settle for the widely available Elsanta. It is fun to go and pick your own if you can, or even try growing them. Just please don’t buy them out of season again!

Seasonal cooking is incredibly important

Seasonal cooking is incredibly important

Strawberries and cream is a marriage made in heaven and I’ve combined the flavours into a cake (basically a simple all-in-one Victoria sponge).

Elderflowers appear in June too and there is something deeply satisfying about foraging for them in the hedgerow (though do find one away from traffic fumes). I’ve also given my recipe for elderflower cordial, which is in both the sponge cake and its cream filling.

Elderflower cordial is available commercially, but do try to make it; the home-made version is out of this world. Dilute with water for a refreshing drink, drizzle over summer berries, or pour into a glass of Prosecco or even a gin and tonic. It freezes well in plastic bottles (not glass, which will shatter in the freezer!) so it’s well worth making a large batch.

My Strawberry and Elderflower Cake is perfect for any summer party or gathering, a cake with a real WOW factor. If you follow my clear instructions you’ll find it isn’t as difficult as you might think. My friend Fi first made it a year or so ago, having never baked before in her life. She took it along to a birthday party and it was such a huge success that it has become her regular party piece! I’m rather proud of her.
Happy Baking!

My first blog

Thrilled about my first blog



Strawberry and elderflower cake

Serves 24 (halve the recipe to serve 12)

For the cake

450g unsalted butter, really soft,

diced, plus more for the tins

450g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

8 eggs, lightly beaten

finely grated zest of 2 large

unwaxed lemons

450g golden caster sugar

4 tbsp elderflower cordial


For the Elderflower cream

1.2kg ripe, even-sized

strawberries, cleaned, dried

and hulled

2 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

600ml double cream

8 tbsp elderflower cordial


As I write, the hedgerows are filled with creamy, lacy elderflower heads, crying out to be turned into a fragrant cordial. Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with strawberries, and make a perfect summer birthday cake. Assemble only a couple of hours before the event (and chill, if you can) as the cake won’t keep, especially in the heat. A summer celebration on a plate!


To Bake

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/350°F/gas mark 4. To make the three-tiered cake, take three 20cm round sandwich tins. Butter the tins and line the bases with baking parchment. If you have only two tins, then make the cake mixture and divide it evenly into three batches, baking the third as soon as a tin becomes free.


For this cake, I use an electric mixer and beater attachment, but you can use a food processor, or a bowl and electric whisk, if you prefer. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, add the butter, eggs, lemon zest and sugar, and beat well, adding the cordial towards the end. Be careful not to over-mix, as you want a light cake.


Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. (To halve the recipe, bake in two 20cm tins for 20–25 minutes.) Remove from the oven, leave for a couple of minutes, run a knife around the rim to loosen the cakes from the tins and turn out on to a wire rack. Remove the papers and leave to cool completely. Trim the cakes flat.


For the Filling and Decoration

Slice 400g of the strawberries and toss in a bowl with the sugar and vanilla. Leave all the flavours to mingle together for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form, adding the cordial slowly just as it begins to thicken. Place one cake on a cake stand and spread with a layer of cream and half the sliced strawberries. Repeat with another cake, a layer of cream and the remaining sliced strawberries. Top with the last cake. Spread the remaining cream all over the top and sides.

Take the best-shaped 20 strawberries and cut 10–12 in half. Place the halved strawberries, cut side up, in a circle around the edge of the cake, and pile up the rest in the centre. Cut the remaining strawberries into slices – or in half – and press into the cream all around the sides.



Make a jar of vanilla sugar: fill a jar with caster sugar, add a couple of empty vanilla pods, seal and leave it for a couple of weeks to infuse. Sprinkle over bowls of strawberries and other delicious British berries all summer long and serve with a jug of thick yellow cream.

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Next Month: Ice Cream Cakes

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