Thursday, 6 June 2019


Scones are on high rotation at our house, they're almost too easy to make. Everyone loves them, we have the usual debate about jam first versus cream, jam obviously, my husband disagrees, and the youngest kids are just weirdos, one cuts them vertically, and both opt for jam only!

I've adapted Delia Smith's plain scone recipe, it's fabulous, mostly just changing the shape. Scone dough should be mixed and handled as little as possible, the more the dough is kneaded and rolled, the tougher and heavier the baked scone will be. Round scones are so pretty, and definitely the most photogenic, but cutting the scones into triangles allows you to mix the dough until it just holds together, and removes the need to re-roll off cuts, giving you 8 equally light fluffy scones. The sharp edges crisp up beautifully, contrasting wonderfully with the soft interior.

This recipe makes 8, it can be easily doubled, but only make as many as you'll eat that day; they're best eaten just barely warm from the oven, and are so easy to make you can always mix up another batch tomorrow..


300g self raising flour
55g spreadable butter (I use Lurpak)
30g caster sugar
pinch salt
145ml milk
extra flour for dusting

• position a shelf towards the top of your oven, and preheat to 220ºC fan (240ºC conventional), line a baking tray with baking paper
• tip the flour into a large bowl, gently rub the butter into the flour, then stir through the sugar and salt
• make a well in the flour mixture, and using a blunt knife, mix in the milk; knead gently until the dough just comes together
• tip the dough onto your lined tray, use your hands to form a disc 3cm tall; dust with the extra flour and cut the disc into 8 equally sized triangles, carefully separate the triangles moving them apart slightly
• pop the scones in the oven, immediately turn it down to 200ºC fan (220ºC conventional), and bake for 15 minutes
• cool the scones on a rack, serve ever so slightly warm from the oven with jam and cream; any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so, but honestly, we knock over 8 in a heartbeat :)

I don't have a photo of a scone with jam and cream, I totally forgot, but here's a close up, it's a bit dodgy, but you can see the dough is beautifully puffed and light.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake, with blackberry and lemon

Blackcurrant and aniseed; a flavour combination I've loved since I was a kid, dyeing my teeth black with inappropriately named lollies, and later as a teen, drinking questionable mixers with other unfortunate results! These days I generally use aniseed flavours in savoury dishes, star anise and Thai basil are two favourites, but it's Christmas and I'm feeling nostalgic, so blackcurrant and aniseed it is.

Chiffon cakes are so versatile, experimenting with the liquid component and adding spices achieves all sorts of interesting flavours. I reduced the sugar, and added blackcurrant cordial and ground star anise to find the taste I was looking for; a fruity, lightly spiced sponge, amplified with a tangy blackcurrant compote. It's not a flavour combination for everyone, if aniseed is really not your thing, just omit the star anise and add the finely grated zest of a lemon to the dry ingredients, the blackcurrant and lemon work beautifully together. Created for Barker's Pantry.

This cake ain't for everybody, only the quirky people... 🎶

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 16

6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour (if you can't find cake flour substitute with regular plain flour)
220g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground star anise
100ml  Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
80ml water
120ml canola oil, or similar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)

140g lemon curd, store bought is totally fine!
mascarpone filling, recipe below
blackcurrant compote, recipe below 
1 punnet blackberries

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• combine the cake flour, baking powder, ground star anise and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 220g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the blackcurrant cordial, water, egg yolks, and oil, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• divide the batter equally between 3 ungreasedunlined 20cm springform cake tins and bake for 30 minutes
• remove the cakes from the oven, and leaving them in the tins, immediately invert onto racks to cool; expect the cakes to sink slightly in the centre as they cool, they'll form prefect shallow bowls to load with the filling :)
• when completely cool, to release the cakes, run a sharp knife around the inside of the cake tin, remove the outer ring leaving the cake sitting on the base of the tin. This next stage is a little tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide all the way through, pressing the thread against the base as you go, invert the cakes onto a flat surface and you're ready to assemble
• keep the neatest, most even cake for the top layer, place another layer, flat side down on your serving plate/cake stand. Gently spread with half the lemon curd, top with half the mascarpone cream, dot with dessert spoons of blackcurrant compote, swirl together, finally scatter with half the blackberries. Repeat with the next layer, finishing with the final cake layer, flat side facing up
• you could simply dust the cake with icing sugar, or decorate as you like; I love using fresh fruit and flowers, but went a little festive with this one, it is almost Christmas
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 4 days

mascarpone filling
preparation time 5 minutes

500g mascarpone
300ml cream

• tip the mascarpone into a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment beat for 10 seconds or so, until smooth, add the cream, mix until smooth, thick and creamy
• store in the fridge until ready to use

blackcurrant compote
preparation time 10 minutes

350g blackcurrants, fresh or frozen

60ml Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
75g caster sugar

• tip all the ingredients into a small pan, bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved

• simmer over a medium heat until the blackcurrants have softened and the juices are thick and syrupy
• leave to cool, store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use

Monday, 10 December 2018

walnut dacquoise with chocolate and cherries

Two weeks, it's Christmas in two weeks! I'm at odds with Christmas. Growing up in the UK, I find Christmas in short days and long nights, overcast skies or pale winter sun, gloves and scarves, roasted chestnuts, the Wizard of Oz, walnuts and satsumas rattling around in the bottom of a Santa sack. Not in a vast blue sky towering over bleached sandy beaches, that high contrast Aussie summer light; stifling nights, sundresses, salt crusted hair and cricket. But it's all those things, and more, for my kids, and Christmas is essentially about family. So let's say I'm happily at odds with Christmas.

This desserts pairs the festive walnuts of my youth, with the beautiful cherries of an Australian summer, and it's equally delicious whatever the hemisphere. A wonderful dessert for Christmas day, beautifully nutty, with a crisp meringue shell and soft chewy centre, layered with chocolate, cherries and cream. Make the components in advance, then put it together about an hour before you serve, give those flavours and layers a little time to meld, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! 

walnut dacquoise
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 12*

190g walnuts
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
40g icing sugar
9 egg whites
525g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

500ml thickened cream, whipped
Chocolate ganache
Cherry compote
Icing sugar, for decoration
Cherries, for decoration
Candied walnuts, optional for decoration

• pre-heat oven to 170ºC
• grease and line 3, 20 cm cake tins
• spread walnuts evenly over a baking tray, toast in the oven for 10 minutes, leave to cool completely
• tip walnuts and icing sugar into a food processor, and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground, the same consistency as the ground almonds, set aside
• whisk egg whites until stiff, continue whisking adding caster sugar 2 tbsp at a time until glossy and stiff, and the sugar has dissolved
• carefully fold through ground walnuts, almonds, and vinegar
• divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins, bake for 35 minutes
• cool in the tins
• when completely cool, remove the dacquoise discs from the tins, keep the prettiest disc for the top layer
  place a dacquoise layer on your serving plate, gently spread with half the ganache, top with half the cherry compote, finishing with half of the whipped cream; your dacquoise may crack and sink slightly, this is part of the charm, the dip perfectly housing the delicious filling
• repeat with your second dacquoise layer, finishing with the pretty top
• dust icing sugar, and decorate with fresh cherries and caramelised walnuts

chocolate ganache
preparation time 10 minutes

200g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream

• finely chop chocolate, tip into heat proof bowl
• heat cream to simmering point, pour over chocolate, leave for 5 mins then stir until smooth
• cool completely

cherry compote
preparation time 25 minutes

500g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
60ml cherry brandy
60ml orange juice (can use all juice if don’t want alcohol, although its’s cooked off)
50g granulated sugar

• tip all ingredients into a pan, bring to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
• simmer for 10 mins or so, until cherries soften
• strain cherries over a bowl, return juices to pan, simmer until thick and syrupy
• pour over cherries, cool, store in airtight container

candied walnuts
preparation time 15 minutes

200g granulated sugar
125g walnut halves

• line a baking try with non- stick baking paper, or lightly greased foil
• tip the sugar into a heavy based frying pan/skillet
• cook the sugar over a medium heat until it is melted and golden, do not stir the sugar, but gently swirl the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly
• add the walnuts to the pan, stir until they are coated with caramel, then tip them onto the lined baking tray, separate the walnut halves, don’t worry if a few stick together, you can try to break them apart when they have cooled
• when they have cooled completely store in an airtight container

* the recipe can be easily adapted to a 2 layer dessert, 8 generous slices, by reducing the quantities by 2/3

Monday, 3 December 2018

christmas sandwich cookies

I love baking, I love Christmas, I really love Christmas baking. There's something special about a homemade gift, the thought behind it, time spent, using your hands. A box of cookies, a bottle of vanilla extract, a Christmas decoration; cue Frank and Bing, I'm starting early.

These festive cookies are based on the European Linzer Cookie, a mini version of the Linzer Torte, popular at Christmas. The traditional cookies are lightly spiced with cinnamon, sometimes lemon zest, and sandwiched with blackcurrant jam; I've left out the citrus and spice, instead opting for a buttery, vanilla flavour paired with sweet strawberry jam. They're one of my favourites, easy to make, delicious and really pretty; perfect as a gift, and a great "bring a plate" for the party season. Created for Barker's Pantry

christmas sandwich cookies

100g ground almonds
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
225g butter
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Barker's New Zealand strawberry jam
icing sugar for dusting

makes approximately 15 sandwich cookies
preparation time 30 minutes, not including chilling and baking

• in the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand held mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the vanilla and egg yolks, and mix to combine
• add the ground almonds, and with the mixer on slow, beat to combine
• sift the flour and salt together, then add to the dough, mix slowly until just combined
• divide the dough in half, roll each half between two sheets of baking paper to 5mm thick, leaving the dough between the sheets of baking paper, transfer to baking trays and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
• preheat your oven to 175ºC fan, 195ºC conventional
• use a 6cm cookie cutter to cut rounds from the sheets of dough, transfer to lined baking trays, leaving 2cm clearance around each cookie
• collect the off cuts together and re-roll, popping it back into the fridge for 10 minutes or so if it becomes too soft to handle
• use a smaller, approximately 2.5cm cutter to cut a circle from the centre of half the cookies, save these little rounds, bake them separately to make mini sandwiches cookies
• bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges, then transfer to racks to cool
• when the cookies are completely cool, turn the solid round cookies upside down and top with a teaspoon of jam; dust the cookie rings with icing sugar then gently press onto the bases
• using a couple of teaspoons, very carefully top the centres of the cookies with a little extra jam
• cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, you can make the cookies in advance, but fill them just before serving as they will soften quickly once filled

vanilla extract

300ml mini bottle of vodka
5 vanilla beans

• split the vanilla beans in half length ways, drop into the bottle of vodka, tightly replace the lid
• store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight for 8 weeks
• remove the vanilla beans and your vanilla extract is good to go!
• it would be more economical to buy a large bottle of vodka and decant into several smaller bottles, but I just loved the shape of this one!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

blood orange, chocolate, and buttermilk bundt

Chocolate, orange, and a party bundt, what's not to love? This chocolate, blood orange and buttermilk bundt is a bit of a favourite; the sponge is light and moist, the gentle chocolate flavour and tangy blood orange, a perfect pair. The recipe suits a 12 cup bundt pan, but if yours like mine is a 10 cup, it also makes 6 bonus cupcakes! This bundt pan is genuinely called the "party bundt", it's a Nordic ware pan from Williams-Sonoma, and is my absolute favourite; it's really pretty, not too intricate so is less likely to stick, and its lovely symmetrical pattern makes for perfectly even portions. If you've missed blood orange season, a regular orange will work just as well, your only sacrifice the most perfect shade of pink!

chocolate, blood orange bundt

325g plain flour, cake flour if you can find it

2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
330g caster sugar
375ml canola oil
zest of 1 blood orange
2 large eggs
250ml (1 cup) buttermilk
2 tsps white vinegar
1 1/2 tsps bicarb soda

blood orange icing, recipe below

 preheat your oven to 175ºC 

• carefully grease your bundt pan with softened butter, ensuring you coat the entire surface, particularly any creases, then dust with cocoa powder. If you are using a 10 cup bundt pan you will have extra mixture, enough for 6 small cupcakes, so pop 6 cupcake liners into a cupcake pan, 
I generally use dark or foil cases, I think they look better when baked. 
 over a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside
• using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or hand held mixer, mix together the oil and sugar until combined, then add the eggs one at a time, make sure your first egg is completed incorporated before you add the next 
• add the blood orange zest and mix to combine, the batter looks really weird at this point, but stick with it!
 with the mixer on low, tip in 1/3 of the flour/cocoa comb and mix until just combined, add 1/2 buttermilk, mix until combined. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk, finishing with the last 1/3 of the flour/cocoa
 in a cup or small bowl, mix the bicarb soda and vinegar together, it will foam up, tip into the cake batter and mix until combined
 fill your cupcake cases 2/3 full, I use an ice-cream scoop with a release for this, it helps me to keep the cakes the same size. Tip the remaining batter into the bundt pan
 bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, the bundt cake will take 30-35 minutes, up to 40 minutes for the 12 cup bundt pan, check it after 30 minutes by gently poking the centre of your cake with a skewer or piece of uncooked spaghetti, the skewer will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Immediately invert the bundt cake onto a cooling rack and leave to cool
 cool your cup cakes on a wire cooling rack, when completely cold they are ready to ice
• drizzle the cake (and cupcakes) with blood orange icing and enjoy

blood orange icing

125g icing sugar

juice of 1/2 blood orange

• sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl

• gradually add the blood orange juice until you have a thick icing, you want it to just drop off your spoon, slightly looser than a paste
• use immediately

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut chiffon cake

Chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut, definitely a flavour combination you should try. I made this chiffon cake for my son's birthday, I wasn't planning to post to it, but after many requests, here it is. It's a slightly tweaked, more flavourful version of the nutella chiffon I made for him a couple of years ago, stronger on the coffee, with a good dollop of nutella in the sponge.

We barely made it to the restaurant on time, so there's only a couple of images, check my instagram highlights for the waiter's thumbprint! One of my favourite things about this cake is the nutella swiss meringue buttercream, it's just the right combination of hazelnut and chocolate with a hint of salt, I want to put it on all the things...

chocolate chiffon

200g cake flour

30g cocoa powder
10g baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
250g caster sugar
180 ml hot black coffee
60g nutella
125 ml canola oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)
50g caster sugar

nutella swiss meringue buttercream, recipe below

cooled nutella ganache, recipe below
ferrero rocher, hazelnuts and as much foliage as you like, to decorate

serves 16

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• add the nutella to the hot coffee, mix to combine and set aside to cool (I made my coffee with 2 strong coffee pods)
• combine the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 250g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the cooled coffee, egg yolks, oil and vanilla extract, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes; check after 55 minutes, the cake should spring back when gently pressed, if not, put it back in for the extra 5 minutes
• remove the cake from the oven, and immediately invert to cool; if your tin doesn't have "feet" balance the upturned tin over a bottle, guiding the neck of the bottle through the centre tube of your pan
• when completely cool, to release the cake, run a sharp knife around the inside and tube sections of the cake tin, remove the cake leaving it sitting on the centre section of the tin; this next stage is tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide the string all the way around the cake, crossing each end around the tube. Invert the cake onto a turntable if you have one, or your serving plate, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.

• frosting step one is the crumb coat, it uses a super thin coating of frosting to glue any loose crumbs to the cake
• starting from the top and working your way down the sides and into the hole through the centre of your cake, use an offset pallet knife to spread a layer of buttercream over your cake;  using the edge of your pallet knife or a cake scraper, gently scrape back as much of the frosting as you can leaving a super thin crumb filled layer behind
• return the cake to the fridge for at least 15 mins to set the crumb coat
• again with the offset pallet knife, cover your cake with a final thicker layer of frosting and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, this will firm up the frosting and help the ganache set 

• carefully pour the ganache over the top of the cake, you may need to encourage it over the sides, allow to drip, return to the fridge to set
• decorate with ferrero rocher, hazelnuts, and foliage of your choice
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days

nutella swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites

180g caster sugar
230g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature

180g nutella
pinch salt
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water, don't let the bowl touch the water; whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC 

• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixture cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mix to incorporate each piece before adding the next; the mixture may look alarmingly curdled at times but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is in, add the salt and vanilla seeds, mixing on slow until combined, finally add the nutella, again mixing slowly to combine

• the frosting should be firm enough to scoop, if it's too soft, put it in the fridge to firm up, checking in 5 minute intervals until it is ready
• buttercream will keep for a week in an air tight container in the fridge, allow to soften at room temperature before use

nutella ganache

100g nutella

60g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
125ml cream

• finely chop the chocolate, tip into a small heatproof bowl with the nutella

• heat cream in a small pan until barely simmering, simmer for 1 minute then pour over the chocolate and nutella, stir to ensure the chocolate and nutella are covered by the cream, then let stand for 5 minutes
• stir until smooth and glossy, leave to thicken as it cools