Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Cheese please: Štěpánka's Czech cheese straws

Apart from mince pies and port I've spent a lot of the Christmas holidays eating these delicious caraway seed sprinkled cheese straws which are basically savoury shortbread. My mother-in-law Štěpánka makes them every year and the original recipe is from a 1939 Czech cook book given to her by her mother. I love the clean lines of the illustration on the book's cover and also the surprisingly minimal design of their platinum edged wedding dinner service seen in the photo above (it was the 1970s!).

100g grated cheese (Red Leicester or Cheddar work well)
100g butter, chilled and diced
200g plain flour
1 egg, yolk and white separated
Caraway seeds
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat your oven to 200C
2. Combine the cheese, butter, flour and egg yolk into a dough (this is easiest to do in a food processor) 
3. Roll out the dough, place on baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and cut into rectangles 
4. Brush with the egg white and sprinkled over the salt and caraway seeds
5. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown and allow to cool before breaking into rectangles and serving

Mini Mince Pies

Mmmm mince pies. This Christmas I made mine mini size using a mini cupcake pan like these strawberry tarts. No homemade mincemeat this time but the Waitrose offering did the job very well. I always like to give them a good dusting of icing sugar too. Just enough for two bites to soak up a little mid afternoon port on Christmas (my favourite festive tipple for 2011). 

Find the recipe here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mini Strawberry Tarts

Cute canapé sized strawberry tarts for a Hardie Grant event. The pastry cases are pate sucree (sweet shortcrust) baked blind in a mini muffin tin. The filling is lemon swiss meringue buttercream and each tart is topped with a fresh strawberry quarter.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Popping around the Christmas Tree

Wow I can't believe it's December and time to make these Xmas tree cake pops already! These pops in particular were for a My Daily feature.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Rainbow Cake in Stylist's Big Bake-Off Top 20

Remember the rainbow cake I made this summer? Well now it's made the Stylist Magazine's Big Bake-Off top 20. Stylist Magazine is one of my favourites so I'm v excited! If you'd like to vote for me just click here and look for the stripes... There is some amazing cake eye candy amongst the other 19 entries too!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Rococo Chocolate School

Last weekend I spent a lovely morning at Rococo's Chocolate School learning to temper chocolate (and true to my Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory fantasy, eating lots of it too). A small group of us gathered at their pretty Motcomb Street store and were taken through the process of tempering and piping into moulds by Laurent Couchaux, Rococo's very own 'Prof du Choc' (what a title!). Laurent has been working with chocolate for years and we took the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions as we scraped, poured and piped...

We got to sample the new autumn collection while our creations set (pear, apple, walnut and fig - yum!) along side a palate cleansing white tea and then lots of fun packaging up the goods with Rococo's beautiful bags and stickers. 

Glossy melted couverture chocolate at the start of it's tempering journey
Laurent - our Prof du Choc
Lots and lots of melted chocolate on tap!

Making flame shapes

Even clearing up is fun when chocolate is involved.
Gorgeous ganache flavours
Cocoa beans

Our tasting session with autumnal flavours and white tea

My wafers and decorative flame shapes
Laurent turns out some perfect poissons
Packaging up our creations
Pretty packaging

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake

Triple chocolate layer cake - chocolate cake in 3 layers with a white chocolate filling and chocolate ganache frosting decorated with candied violet petals. This beauty won a special Children In Need bake off judged by Mary Berry - I was so proud! I'm definitely going to work with ganache more in the future - a white chocolate one like this is next on my list to try.  

Monday, 31 October 2011

Spiced Vanilla & Honey Cake

Autumn is definitely my favourite time of year when the light is warm, scarves come out and baked things are flavoured with comforting spices like cinnamon. Here is a lovely recipe for spiced vanilla and honey cake which I made with April Harris of 21st Century Housewife for a Cafe Direct coffee matching event (matching coffee with food just like you would with wine)

The event was held at the L’atelier des Chefs kitchen and we had lots of fun tasting coffee (called 'cupping' I learnt!) and meeting and baking with other food bloggers. The recipe below was made as part of a friendly bake off (which we won!). Our cake was made to match Cafe Direct's Mayan Palenque coffee with it's honey and vanilla flavours.

Cafe Direct are running another coffee matching competition to win £500 worth of L’atelier des Chefs vouchers and a place in their new cook book if you fancy a go.


For the cake:

1 ¾ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice (plus extra for decoration)

1 vanilla pod (seeds only)
½ cup vegetable oil
½  cup clear honey
¾ cups golden caster sugar
¼ cup brown sugar

2 medium eggs at room temperature
½ cup warm coffee (preferably Cafedirect Mayan Palenque)
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbsp whiskey

For the glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp clear honey 
1 tbsp water


1. Preheat oven to 170C and generously grease and flour a 12 hole muffin tin, an 8” round tin or a shallow bundt tin

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mixed spice and vanilla. Set aside

3. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients

4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter

5. Spoon the batter into your tin and bake for around 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean

6. For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar honey and water and drizzle over your cooled cake(s). If you prefer flat topped small cakes, level off the tops and serve them upside-down. It’s best to do this on a wire rack with some greaseproof paper underneath so that excess icing doesn’t collect on the serving plate. Sprinkle some mixed spice on top of the glaze to decorate. 

'Team April' claims their prize - a LOT of coffee!

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Photo by Cafe Direct

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Top of the Cake Pops makes its Debut!

It's here! Top of the Cake Pops is published today - I can't wait to see it in shops everywhere. It's been an amazing experience putting it together not to mention hilarious fun making accessories and chosing outfits (and even tattoos) for the likes of Lady Goo Goo and Amy Limehouse. Hope you love it as much as I do. More photos here.

Ps. The awesome photos are by Lucy Ridgard for Hardie Grant, amazing design from Joanna Byrne and creative genius from commisioning editor Kate Pollard.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sheepish cakes

Some sheepish pics of the Shaun the Sheep inspired birthday cake and cake pops that I made for Jack - our gorgeous 3 year old nephew this summer - happy birthday Jack!

Pie & buildings in the sky

I've just got back from a trip to Chicago to see the amazing skysrapers and check out the equally amazing food there so I thought I'd share one of my favourite stops offs - this is not my Banana Cream Pie but Hoosier Mama's. The Hoosier Mama Pie Company is a cute local pie shop in the Ukrainian Village area of Chicago that makes proper old fashioned Tom & Jerry american style pies in all sorts of flavours. Here are some pics from the shop...

The spoils... Cherry, Banana Cream and Apple.

And two of my favourite buildings - Marina City and the new Trump Tower.

Now I need to try a recipe in the Rhubarb & Rose kitchen - I have my eye on this gorgeous looking recipe for strawberry & rhubarb recipe from Smitten Kitchen.


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