Pick and Mix Pancakes! Porridge, banana and coconut


Not exactly a bake or a cake but I’m currently going through a bit of a pancake obsession. Mainly due to entering into the whole baby led weaning adventure. I wanted to find something nutritious, tasty and sugar free that we could all enjoy together.

Pinterest vs. Real life. Scrambled banana pancakes #babyledweaning #pinterestfail #pinterestvsreallife #bananapancakes #pancakes #blw

A photo posted by Aroundtheworldin80bakes (@princelauren) on

I attempted (and burnt) a lot of banana pancakes first. They’re sweet but have more of a frittata taste and texture to them than I like in my pancakes. However they went down a storm!

Next up sweet potato pancakes. Really easy to fry up and rather tasty! They could be served as a savoury side dish or with fruit and yoghurt to sweeten them up further. Again the baby loved them so we’re onto a winner

Porridge pancakes were by far my favourite. They’re more savoury than the others but they’re fluffy and the perfect companion to fruit and yoghurt to increase the sweetness (and a good drizzle of maple syrup for me of course!). I then attempted a banana porridge pancake hybrid which was all the more delicious.

Coconut pancakes were also extremely popular in our house. Fluffy, light and sweet.

All of these pancakes require very little effort, are pretty simple to make and can be frozen for future snacking. I have a small bowl attachment for my hand (stick) blender which works wonderfully to blend the ingredients together for all 4 types of pancake.

The trick to good pancakes is getting the temperature right when frying them. I use a large non stick frying pan on an induction hob with coconut oil as it has a high smoking point. Setting 5/6 on the hob seems to have enough sizzle to it.

I use an ice cream scoop to put the batter into the pan which helps to make mini round pancakes.

Flipping the pancakes as soon as the edges are cooked (not wet or runny) and using a two palette knife approach to gently lift and flip them over means they’re easier to handle and much less likely to end up a scrambled mess. *I learnt the hard way.

Depending on the thickness of your pancakes they take a minute or two on each side to cook through. The sweet potato pancakes take a little longer (about 4 mins each side) but if you’re making mini pancakes you can squeeze about 6 in one pan and cook them in batches.

Banana pancakes
Makes approx. 10-15 mini pancakes
Freezer friendly
1 banana
1 egg

1. Blend the banana and egg to make a runny batter.
2. Heat coconut oil in the pan in a medium heat
3. Spoon batter into small rounds in the pan. About 5cm diameter.
4. Cook for about 1/2 mins and flip over for another minute.
5. Remove from heat carefully using two spatulas (they’re a delicate pancake!)
6. Leave to cool on kitchen paper and serve still warm.

They freeze really well too and baby enjoyed them cold from the fridge the next day too!

Sweet potato pancakes
Makes approx. 15 mini pancakes
Freezer friendly
1 large sweet potato
2 eggs
Coconut oil to fry pancakes in
Optional 1tsp cinnamon

1. Peel and cut sweet potato into small chunks. Steam until cooked and soft
2. Whizz up the sweet potato and egg in the blender to make a thick runny batter.
3.. Spoon batter into hot greased pan.
4.. Cook for about 5 mins each side or until golden brown.
5. Serve as savoury snack or with yoghurt and fruit.

Porridge Pancakes
Makes approx. 20 mini pancakes
Freezer friendly

1 1/3 cup porridge oats – blended to a fine flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup natural/greek yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp ground ginger
*Optional Blueberries/raspberries to drop into the batter as pancakes are cooking to make fruity porridge pancakes
Coconut oil (to fry the pancakes in)

1. Blend oats to a fine flour
2. Add baking powder
3. Blend in rest of ingredients
4. Leave batter to thicken for a couple of mins.
5. Cook in hot greased pan until golden brown on each side. (2/3 mins each side)
6. Serve with yoghurt and fruit or as a hand held snack.

Banana Porridge Pancakes
Makes approx 20 mini pancakes
Freezer friendly
1 1/3 cup porridge oats – blended to a fine flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Coconut oil (to fry the pancakes in)

1. Blend oats to a fine flour
2. Add baking powder
3. Blend in rest of ingredients
4. Leave batter to thicken for a couple of mins.
5. Cook in hot greased pan until golden brown on each side. (2/3 mins each side)
6. Serve with yoghurt and fruit or as a hand held snack.

Coconut pancakes
Makes approx 15 – 20 mini pancakes
Freezer friendly

2 eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/8 cup (or I used half of a 1/4 cup of milk as my cups don’t come in 8th measurements) cup coconut milk (hardly seems worth opening a can for such a small amount but it really enhances the coconut flavour)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/8 cup (or I used half of a 1/4 cup) wholemeal flour
2 tbs melted coconut oil
*plus additional coconut oil for frying pancakes

1. Beat eggs together
2. Beat in coconut milk
3. Beat in the rest of the ingredients
4. Let the batter stand for a minute or two to thicken.
5. Heat oil in pan and spoon batter into small rounds.
6. Cook for 1-2 mins each side.
7. Serve with fruit and yoghurt as you like ūüôā

67. Peruvian Corn Cake

The imperfect yet delicious Peruvian Corn Cake

The imperfect yet delicious Peruvian Corn Cake

So not all cakes are perfect. Despite the rather rustic appearance this Peruvian Corn cake it is extremely delicious. It’s traditionally eaten in coffee shops with enormous amounts of whipped cream and adorned with cherries. As I was transporting this to Cake Club at The Cookhouse I had to make do with squirty cream in a can…

Squirty cream in a can masks all manner of sins

Squirty cream in a can masks all manner of sins

You’d think by now, 67 bakes in to my around the world in 80 bakes challenge I’d be getting pretty good at this baking malarkey. Alas I still have the odd disaster and ruin a cake or two.

Is it because I can’t resist tampering with the recipe?¬† Is it because I’m slap dash in the kitchen?¬† Or is it because the sultanas all sank to the bottom welding the cake to the tin meaning I had to hack at it with a sharp knife to prise the last half from it’s bundty prison?

Perhaps I was a bit too roough with the Peruvian Corn Cake?

Perhaps I was a bit too roough with the Peruvian Corn Cake?

I guess it’s a combination of all 3 to be honest. Nevertheless I took it to cake club to share with my friends and enjoyed an enormous slice of it smothered in whipped cream. Which hides a multitude of sins and disguises the broken bits.

Shhh no one will notice it's a cake of two halves

Shhh no one will notice it’s a cake of two halves

The Peruvian Corn Cake is infused with Star Anise and stuffed full with coconut and plump sultanas.¬† It’s a perfect crumbly cake to accompany a strong cup of coffee.

The stars of the show - Star Anise seeds and Pink Himalyan Salt ready for grinding

The stars of the show – Star Anise seeds and Pink Himalyan Salt ready for grinding

Cornmeal gives the cake a wonderful golden yellow hue and an interesting texture.  Light yet crumbly to the touch with bursts of sweet moisture from the sultanas.

I’m a big lover of fruit cake and bundt cake and coconut and spice so this is an absolute winner for me. I bet if you soaked the sultanas in a little rum beforehand it would be sublime.

If you’re not a dried fruit fan feel free to leave the sultanas out (and you might have more joy getting the cake out of its tin!)

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

Being lazy I whacked everything into my kitchenaid knowing full well that if you want to distribute your dried fruit evenly you should roll it in a little flour first and fold it into the batter. Alas I was hasty and missed this step so I had sunken sultanas.  Although the cake batter is very fluid so I doubt it would suspend sultanas throughout the cake. Gravity is inevitable.

The beaten batter

The beaten batter

I adapted this recipe from a wonderful book which could have literally been made for me. Cakes from Around the World.


Things that I used to make my Peruvian Corn Cake

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 30g butter or margarine (butter would be better if you have it)

Step 1: Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy

  • ¬†3 eggs

Step 2: Then beat in the eggs one at a time adding a little of the flour if it starts to spilt.

  • 240g Fine milled corn meal (not to be mistaken for corn flour which is white not yellow). If you only have coarse corn meal blitz it in the blender to make it fine milled.
  • 20g (2tablespoons) Baking powder
  • 40g plain flour
  • Ground star anise (I used 6 seeds from whole star anise or you could use 1/2tsp of ground star anise powder)
  • 40g desiccated coconut

Step 3: Measure all of the flours and spices together. Beat in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the oil.¬† Repeat until all of the flours and oil is incorporated into the batter. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl down too!

  • 80ml olive oil (it’s supposed to be corn oil which I didn’t have but sunflower oil would also be a good substitute)

Step 4: Roll the sultanas in a little flour and fold them gently into the batter. (or of you can’t be bothered to dirty another spoon beat them in gently with your mixer there’s so much baking prefer in this cake it’s bound to rise so you probably don’t need to treat it too delicately worrying about keeping the air in the batter. )

  • 220g sultanas (golden if possible but they’re more expensive so I just used normal ones)

Step 5: Pour your cake batter into a thoroughly greased bundt tin.  You could add a little flour too for good measure.

Step 6: Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 45 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius (fan).

Step 7: Allow to cool before attempting to coax it from the tin. Slice and smear with whipped cream. Eat enormous wedges with strong coffee!


The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made


My Bestest Banana Bread

I’m going to let you into a secret. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying new combinations of flours and flavours to make some tasty, healthy (ish) cakes using up food that would otherwise go to waste. And what did I conjure up? My bestest banana bread recipe, with coconut, pistachio and rye. Additional bonuses include¬†an extra cake! This recipe is enough for 2 cakes, so you can freeze one for later or give it to a friend who needs a nutritious energy boost. It’s also low in sugar and gluten. (You could choose gluten free flour if you prefer.)

Bonus Banana Bread

Bonus Banana Bread

When my bananas are on the turn and almost ready for the bin I throw them in the freezer in their blacken skins to save for a later date. ¬†(Yes you can freeze bananas. Feel free to peel them first and pop them in a tupperware container first if you want to use them from frozen for smoothies or milkshakes, then you don’t even need to add ice cream for a chilled drink).

Once I have 3 black bananas stockpiled I whip up my Banana Bread. Leave your bananas to defrost for an hour or so before you peel them to make your banana bread, as if they’re too cold it will make your butter solidify and could give you denser cake and an uneven bake.

This is really quick to make. Basically beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Followed by your bananas, vanilla and eggs, then the combination of flours and baking powder. Finally beat in a handful of sultanas and chopped walnuts. This takes about 15 minutes with an electric mixer.

I use two 6 inch round tins to bake this recipe, or you could bake one large banana bread loaf if you prefer. Liberally sprinkle the cakes with chopped nuts (whatever you have to hand is fine). I use pistachios which gives you gorgeous green flecks singing out in between the flaked almonds and hazelnuts.

As the cake bakes the batter rises up and supports the nuts, holding them in place for the final cake. It’s also the perfect way to disguise any uneven finishes on your cake, if like me you have an unpredictably hot oven.

My initial experiments involved using 100% coconut flour, but this ended in disaster. I think coconut flour needs to be balanced against other nuttier flours (I like using rye flour but spelt or wholemeal would work well too) to absorb some of the natural oils and sugars and avoid the quick to burn, blackened mess that I made.

In less than an hour (50 minutes at 150 degrees c to be precise) you will produce two beautifully moist banana cakes, that are perfect accompanied by a large mug of strong tea, perhaps after a bracing stroll by the coast. I’m drooling just thinking of that sweet sponge and nutty crunch of a cake. Wonder how many bananas I have lurking in my freezer today…

Perfect Cake spot: A blustry day by Alnwick Castle

Perfect Cake spot: A blustery day by Alnwick Castle

 Things I used to make my Bestest Banana Bread

  • 125g margarine (or butter)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g coconut flour (or finely ground dessicated coconut if you can’t find the flour)
  • 90g Rye Flour (or spelt or wholemeal) -NB: Spelt and Rye flours are not gluten free but may be more suitable to those who have a wheat intolerance. Use a wholemeal gluten free flour if you want to avoid gluten in this recipe.
  • 60g plain flour (feel free to use gluten free flour)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon or mace)
  • Handful of chopped sultanas
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • * Topping: (2 handful of chopped/flaked nuts: almonds, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts
  1. Beat together sugar and butter until fluffy
  2. Beat in bananas
  3. Beat in eggs one by one
  4. Beat in vanilla paste
  5. Beat in coconut, plain, rye flours and baking powder and spice
  6. Beat in sultanas and walnuts
  7. Pour into 2 greased 6 inch round tins (or one large loaf tin)
  8. Cover the top of each cake entirely with a layer of chopped nuts
  9. Bake for 50  mins at 150 degrees c (or until a skewer comes out clean)

My other banana based recipes are Fanny and Otto’s Fijian Banana Cake

54. Hawaiian Haupai Pie – A Coconut Chocolate Cream Dream

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Having never visited Hawaii I have absolutely no idea what the traditional cake Hawaiian cake would be until I discovered Haupai Pie. I’ll never look back from this tropical chocolate, coconut cream dream pie.

The first slice of Haupai Pie

The first slice of Haupai Pie

Trying to decide on a birthday cake for my sister I put a call out for inspiration on twitter and Haupai Pie was suggested by the lovely @FoodandFrets. I knew instantly that this was the pie for me especially with my upcoming trip to @private_pie club which was to be held the amazing Quilliam Bros Teahouse (which is incidentally also my favourite shop to visit with their millions of teas brewed to perfection and spectacular peanut brownies). The theme of Private Pie club this month was ‘free from’. I interpreted this to mean free from meat but not free from calories.

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

The sweet pie table at Private Pie. Gorgeous Raw Chocolate Vegan Pie, Shoofly Pie and my Hapuai Pie

Recipes vary for Haupai pie. Many require just an unspecified ‘pie crust’. Which is helpfully vague but also means I can do what I like best in the kitchen, and make it up as I go along. Sweet chocolate pastry pie crust it is then for me!

Pastry is not my forte. It’s no secret. I have heard that chocolate pastry is particularly difficult and delicate but who cares what the worriers tell you. Just plough on through and it’ll be fine. If I can make it I’m sure anyone can.

Butter me up

Butter me up

Infused with confidence, having churned my own butter recently, I set to work using my Homemade butter to make this challenging crust.

Rub rub run your flour

Rub rub run your flour

Rubbing together the flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar and homemade butter by hand means you’re more in control of the pastry and less likely to overwork it. (Not that I could honestly tell the difference between over our under worked pastry as they all taste pretty good to me.) I chose to use icing sugar rather than caster sugar to achieve a smoother pastry. Caster sugar, although finely ground, could be a little too course for this pastry ¬†(Another helpful tip brought to you from the wisdom of Mary Berry!)¬†It’s definitely not because I had ran out of caster sugar and only had icing sugar to hand…

Pastry starting to come together

Pastry starting to come together

An egg is used to enrich the pastry and bring the dry mixture together. I also added a splash of milk to get the pastry to a good rollable consistency. Once it starts to come together, tip it onto an icing sugared dusted surface and knead it lightly and pat it into a round.

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

A dark chocolate pastry ready for rolling

Moving the pastry as little as possible is apparently the key to good pastry (and cold hands, which I have even in summer). Lightly rolling the pastry away from you, in one direction, turn the pastry 90 degrees clockwise, roll again and turn. Keep repeating until it’s about 5mm thin and big enough to line your tin.

A thin pastry rectangle

A thin pastry rectangle

The best tip I have is to trim off the excess pastry, making more of a round shape as you roll to help keep it all under control. It makes life much easier when trying to fling the pastry into your tin too. Also as the pastry has a high butter content, there’s no need to grease your tin. Hurrah! Another job saved.

Pastry envelope

Pastry envelope

My method is to fold the pastry like an envelope, into thirds and lift it into the middle of the tin. Then all you have to do is unfold the pastry and gently press it into all of the nooks and crannies of your tin (I chose a tart tin with a wavy edge for my main pie). If your pastry is extremely delicate you can press it using a piece of cut off pastry instead of your fingers to stop yourself from poking a hole in it.

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Unfold your pastry into the tin

Once the pastry has relaxed and is pressed tightly into the tin you can trim off the extra and save it for later. This recipe made enough pastry for 2 pies! So I made a bonus practice Haupai pie. You could freeze the raw pastry for another day if you prefer or make some tasty biscuits instead.

Trim your edges

Trim your edges

The pastry needs to chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before blind baking the case.

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Trimmed and chilled pie case

Before baking the chocolate pastry case prick the pastry all over with a fork to stop it bubbling up allowing you to fill it evenly later on.

Blind baking with kidney beans

Blind baking with kidney beans

I like to use crumpled up greaseproof paper to line the case and kidney beans to hold the pastry down during the blind bake. With my extra pastry I decided to attempt a fancy twisted pie crust…

Fancy twisted pie crust

Fancy twisted pie crust

However in reality the fancy pie crust was a bit over ambitious. It melted in the oven during the blind bake and collapsed into the case giving some lucky people an extra thick chocolate crust! To make sure the pie crust bakes evenly I pop the pie onto a preheated baking sheet. The pie needs to be blind baked for 15 minutes and then baked uncovered for a final 5 minutes until it’s fully cooked in the middle. Some of the crust did stick to the greaseproof paper but hey it doesn’t need to look pretty on the inside, it’s going to be covered in luscious chocolate and coconut pudding. (Please ignore the twisted pastry mess on the outside too.)

Not so fancy pie crust

Not so fancy pie crust

Whilst the pie crust is cooling you can then make the coconut custard/pudding mixture. This recipe seemed worryingly liquid filled to me. ¬†I couldn’t imagine it ever thickening up to a custard consistency. I had visions of the runny custard seeping into the pastry and ruining the crisp base. No one wants a soggy bottomed tart. The recipe called for a lot of coconut milk, milk and sugar to be boiled together and allowed to thicken. I had some homemade dulce de leche that needed to be used up so I substituted half of the milk for this instead, which also helped to thicken the mixture. (But you could just use normal milk or condensed milk for an extra sugary kick if you prefer…)

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

Simmering and whisking coconut milk, dulce de leche

I’ve never made a custard without eggs before, relying solely on corn flour to thicken the mixture. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use up the box of cornflour I had carefully carried through customs all the way back from Berlin recently too, believing it to be a German cake mix. Google translate revealed later that it’s just plain old cornflour that I could buy in any shop here…

This custard/pudding recipe screamed against all my baking instincts, which I had to suppress with all my might to stop myself throwing in the odd egg yolk or two. I’m pleased I ignored my supposed baking instincts and¬†put my faith in the recipe. ¬†Pouring the full volume of water mixed with cornflour into the coconut milk, I held my breath and whisked like mad…

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me...

This seems like a lot of water and cornflour to me…

Miraculously the custard thickened immediately after I poured to full amount of cornflour into the mix! Producing a gloriously thick and glossy custard.

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

Beautifully thick and glossy coconut custard

The custard then needs to be divided in half to whisk chocolate into one half and dessicated coconut to the other, until you get a beautifully shiny chocolate custard and a wonderfully textured coconut pudding custard.

Chocolate custard

Chocolate custard

Coconut custard

Coconut custard

With your cooled chocolate and coconut custards at the ready, the rest of the Haupai Pie assembly is pretty straight forward. Pour the chocolate layer in first and spread evenly over the base, followed by a layer of coconut custard. As I was making two pies, I ran out of coconut custard for my second pie, but you get the gist of it… You could just make one really full pie instead if you prefer or have a much more chocolatey second pie, like me.

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Chocolate custard filled chocolate pastry cases

Whilst this is setting in the fridge, take the opportunity to whip up your double cream with a little caster sugar, until fluffy and light.

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Followed by a generous layer of Coconut custard

Spread a final thick layer of whipped cream evenly all over your pie and decorate with chocolate, or coconut or a combination of the two! With two pies to decorate I made one with chocolate buttons and another with homemade coconut curls and a milk chocolate drizzle.

The first slice of Haupai Pie - chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

The first slice of Haupai Pie – chocolate buttons make a quick decoration

I absolutely love Haupai Pie! I love the triple layered effect, with the dark chocolate pastry and custard contrasting with the mellow coconut custard and the white whipped cream! You can probably tell I have a bit of a coconut fascination, so this pie is right up my street.

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

Haupai Hawaiian Coconut Pie

The crisp chocolate base is the perfect partner to the smooth and creamy filling. Adding the extra dessicated coconut to the custard gives an added texture and interest to the pie too. And despite my crust slipping into the pie, I quite enjoyed the extra thick crust. ¬†I could quite happily eat chocolate pastry every day. Who would have thought that this time last year I thought that I didn’t really like pastry or cream?! I’m so pleased I persevered and not only do I now like pastry and cream I can now say I really do LOVE it.

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

Coconut curls and chocolate drizzle. Haupai Pie part deux

I was worried that I had prepared the pies too early as I made them on Monday to be served on Wednesday. I feared that the custard would make the pastry too wet. But lo and behold it was still perfectly crisp after 2 days. This pie definitely needs to be kept in the fridge and is probably eaten as soon as possible but rest assured it keeps very well for at least 3 days (if it lasts that long in your house!).

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Haupai Pie mid devouring at Private Pie Club

Things That I used to make me Haupai Pie

Chocolate Pastry Recipe

  • 90g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1 egg
  • a splash of milk
  1. Rub together ingredients dry ingredients and butter
  2. Add the egg (and milk if needed) to bring the pastry together
  3. Roll out to 5mm thickness and press into tin
  4. Cut to shape and prick with a fork all over
  5. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees c.
  6. Bake uncovered for a further 5 minutes, until evenly baked.
  7. Allow to cool

Coconut and Chocolate Custard Fillings

  • 235ml milk (or 175ml dulce de leche and 50ml milk) (or 235ml condensed milk)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (400ml)
  • 200g white sugar

Heat milk and sugar until boiling and simmer for 5 minutes to thicken.

  • 235ml water
  • 65g cornflour
  1. Mix the cornflour and water until dissolved.
  2. Pour cornflour into the coconut milk
  3. Whisk over the heat until thickened (about 3 minutes)
  4. Take off the heat and divide the mixture in half
  • 210g chocolate (100g milk and 110g dark)
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  1. Whisk the chocolate into one half of the custard
  2. Whisk the dessicated coconut into the other half of the custard
  3. Allow to cool
  • 400ml Double cream
  • 40g caster sugar
  1. Whisk the double cream and sugar together until fluffy
  2. Pour chocolate custard into the pastry case
  3. Pour coconut custard into the pastry case
  4. Top with whipped cream
  5. Decorate with chocolate/coconut (or anything else you like)
  6. Enjoy!
Eat with a big spoon

Eat with a big spoon

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat. ¬†The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better, ¬†it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1¬†cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2¬†cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3¬†cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4¬†cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4¬†cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3¬†cup or 75g ¬†melted¬†butter
  • 1¬†egg

Custard Cream Filling


  • 285ml¬†milk
  • 25ml¬†cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg¬†yolks
  • 15g¬†sugar
  • 1 tsp¬†cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4¬†cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2¬†cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1¬†tbsp butter

5 Tiers of Fruit Wedding Cake – My biggest booziest cake ever

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

After Chris and I got engaged my first thoughts turned not to the arranging the wedding, or buying my dress, but to the wedding cake. I got my priorities right. My theory is sort out the cake first and everything else will fall in to place. ¬†I actually bought the first wedding dress I tried on and my nephew who wasn’t quite 1 years old helped me choose it but that’s a completely different story. Let’s concentrate on the cake.¬†We knew we wanted to get married as soon as possible, so the vast majority of the 6 months of our planning and preparation time I spent creating our wedding cake.

Fruit cake is very popular in my family as you can tell by my previous Caribbean Christmas Cakes and Jamaican Black Cake¬†so I knew I needed to make something extra special, something a bit more challenging and flavour packed to feed about 120 of our family and friends. A few sleepless nights later of¬†conjuring¬†up flavour combinations in my head I had it planned. 5 tiers of fruit cake, each with it’s own booze and fruit combination.

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

I quickly realised that I needed much BIGGER kitchen equipment than I owned to create the largest 12″ tier. No bowl was big enough to house the enormous quantity of dried fruit to soak it in the flavoursome booze. A quick hunt round the house and I discovered a hard plastic storage box which I disinfected and decanted all the ingredients into. I like to soak my fruit for as long as possible, in a bit more booze than is recommended so then I don’t really need to feed the cooked cake on a regular basis. It matures nicely wrapped up in greaseproof paper and stays moist. I pour enough booze onto the fruit to give it a pungent glistening alcoholic coat, but not so much that it’s swimming in a pool of booze. If you stir it regularly you can make sure the fruit is absorbing the booze. There should be no liquid left after 2 weeks.

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit - wedding cake fruit

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit

Weighing out the fruit and measuring in the booze can be quite complicated as I found out, especially if you don’t mark on your pot which size cake the fruit is eventually intended for. ¬†Note to self: You really won’t remember which fruit is which after 2 weeks of soaking in booze so don’t even pretend that you will. Your memory is good but it’s really not that good. Squashing an 8″ cake’s worth of fruit into a 6″ cake will not work and you won’t realise that this is the problem, even when you can’t fit it all into the cake tin and have to make extra cupcakes with the rest of the mixture. The cake will be extra moist and you will think it’s not cooked so you have to bake it for an extra 3 hours to convince yourself it’s¬†definitely¬†cooked. To compensate for the extra oven time you will then pour way too much booze on the hot cake when it comes out of the oven and drown it. You will never be happy with this cake so you will then have to start again. From scratch. (You will also have to make another 8″ cake as you decided to bake the two cakes simultaneously and made a right pigs ear of the whole thing. That was a really good Saturday well spent.)

one incinerated wedding cake - let's eat the middle with a spoon

One incinerated wedding cake – let’s eat the middle with a spoon

For my 5 tier wedding cake I ended up baking 8 actual cakes! Mainly due to my own stupidity and also because the oven broke. The 2 cakes which required an extra 3 hours of baking (when added onto their original 4 hours of baking is a lot of time in an oven!) made me realise that the oven wasn’t playing nicely. I invested in an oven thermometer to check the temperature throughout the wedding cake baking process and followed this precisely. Only to then incinerate one cake completely. It was a charcoal cake. Although once I chipped away the outer charcoal casing the centre of the cake was really rather nice. I was determined not to let the¬†amaretto¬†soaked cherries to go to waste. So I chopped up the inside of the cake and served it with ice cream. It was delicious!

The quick ice day late spare cake

The quick ice day late spare cake

The other ‘ruined’ cakes did not go to waste either. I decided to donate one of my reject cakes to the church bake sale and quickly iced it. However upon arrival we discovered we were a day late for the bake sale… Ah the brain fog of wedding preparations! So I shared it with friends instead when they came round for festive drinks. I must admit the extra booze and fruit in the cake made it tricky to cut but it was so tasty!! The final uniced extra boozy tier is still maturing nicely in the cupboard. I’m going to save that one for a special occasion. I’m sure it’s good to keep for at least a year or two.

I despaired slightly as I still had 3 cakes left to bake with a broken oven. Then I did a bit of googling and decided instead to dismantle the oven, clean it and put it back together. ¬†Thankfully this seemed to do the trick! I also watched the other cakes like a hawk and turned them every hour to avoid any charring from the hot spots in the oven. The result? The final 3 tiers were the best cakes I’ve ever baked in my life. I’m sure that extra care and attention was the secret to their success. They were so level they didn’t need to be propped up when icing them to get an even top.

Creaming the butter and the eggs - wedding fruit cake

Creaming the butter, sugar and orange and lemon zests

The method for each sized cake is exactly the same and after baking 8 of them I was starting to know it off by heart. I think this Christmas I may make chocolate cakes! After soaking the fruit in booze for at least 24 hours (if not 2 weeks) you cream the butter, sugar and fruit zests together until light and fluffy.

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Then to add the eggs, whisking them into the butter and sugar mix one at a time. I had to use the biggest bowl I own for this job as the eggs inflate like mad when whisked. The¬†mixture can start to curdle or separate at this point, but it’s not the end of the world. You can whisk in a little flour to stop it separating but it’s still going to taste pretty amazing.

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

Then to prepare the dry ingredients. A¬†separate¬†bowl was definitely required to sift the mountain of flour and spices together. I love a spicy cake, so I’m always quite liberal with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mountains of flour and spices

Mountains of flour and spices

For the 12″ cake I didn’t have a bowl big enough to fit everything in so had to resort to stirring it all together in the plastic storage box! Who knew it was so difficult to stir things in a square box… I ended up with cake mix right up to my elbows and¬†consequently¬†my face and hair. But I did it!

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

You have to fold the wet and dry ingredients in a third at a time until it’s all incorporated. Then finally fold in the ground almonds, chopped nuts and treacle.

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

I hired the largest cake tins from my local cake shop. At 50p a day it was much cheaper than buying massive cake tins and I don’t have to worry about storing them in our already full to capacity flat. It’s really important to double line and grease the cake tins to help prevent the cake from burning as it needs to bake for a really long time at a low (ish) temperature (150 degrees¬†Celsius).

I always tie an extra collar of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and use that to prop up a greaseproof paper lid to protect the top of the cake from burning too. As it doesn’t have any raising agent in it the fruit cake won’t really rise any higher than it sits in the tin uncooked. I wanted to try to get the most even finish that I could so I carefully layered the mixture into the tin, spreading and flattening it down with a spatula. No air pockets for me thanks and the smoothest top I’ve ever achieved.

An even spread - all of the 12" cake mixture in it's very large tin

An even spread – all of the 12″ cake mixture in it’s very large tin

The largest cake obviously takes the longest time to bake. In hindsight starting a massive cake at 6pm is probably not the best plan. It takes at least an hour to combine all of the ingredients together and prepare the tins. Then it needs 6 hours in the oven. This meant I was babysitting the cake until 3am. I accidentally fell asleep and awoke with a fright with the oven timer going off, in my own personal inferno with the oven and the heating on, whilst wearing fleecy pyjamas, a dressing gown and a furry blanket with the cat sat on top of me. I forgot to turn this cake whilst it was baking, due to me being asleep and all , so the cake had a nice diagonal shadow across it, but once it had an extra feeding of booze and it was iced no one noticed. And with a cake this big, using so many ingredients there was no way I was going to start again!

The biggest 12" fruit cake with a slight shadow... shhh no one will notice

The biggest 12″ fruit cake with a slight shadow… shhh no one will notice

The cake fruit and booze combinations I created were…

  • 4″ Cake – Amaretto Tier – Almond, Amaretto and cherry
  • 6″ Cake – Vanilla Tier – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas
  • 8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango
  • 10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and mixed fruit
  • 12″ Cake – Orange Tier – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel
Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Each cake had a different baking time too although all were baked at 150 degrees

  • 4″ Cake – 2 and a half hours
  • 6″ Cake – 3 hours
  • 8″ Cake – 4 hours
  • 10″ Cake – 4 and 3 quarter hours
  • 12″ Cake – 6 hours
The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

What I used to bake my wedding cake – Ingredients

4″ Cake – Almond, Amaretto and Cherries

  • 150g dried cherries
  • 100g sultanas
  • 40g candied peel
  • soaked in (at least) 2 tablespoons of amaretto
  • 100g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • zest of 1/4 of lemon
  • zest of 1/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 10g flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tablespoon treacle

6″ Cake – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas

  • 70g glace cherries
  • 375g sultanas
  • 200g dried chopped dates
  • 45g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 4 tablespoons of vanilla infused brandy (pop a vanilla pod in your bottle of brandy and leave a vanilla pod in with the fruit whilst soaking in brandy)
  • 175g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • zest of 3/4 of lemon
  • zest of 3/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • 1 tablespoon treacle

8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango

  • 125g glace cherries
  • 650g sultanas
  • 320g dried tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya and mango)
  • 100g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 5 tablespoons of malibu (coconut flavour white rum)
  • 350g butter
  • 350g brown sugar
  • zest of 1 and half of lemons
  • zest of 1 and a half ¬†oranges
  • juice of 3/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 6 eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 35g desicated coconut
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons treacle

10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and Mixed fruit

  • 180g glace cherries
  • 800g sultanas
  • 210g dried apricots
  • 250g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 110g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 8 tablespoons of brandy
  • 450g butter
  • 450g brown sugar
  • zest of 2 of lemons
  • zest of 2 of oranges
  • juice of 1 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 8 and half eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 55g flaked almonds
  • 2 tablespoons treacle

12″ Cake – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel

  • 250g glace cherries
  • 1460g sultanas
  • 400g dried apricots
  • 350g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 200g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 10 tablespoons of orange brandy liqueur
  • 660g butter
  • 660g brown sugar
  • zest of 3 of lemons
  • zest of 3 of oranges
  • juice of 1 and 1/2 oranges (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 12 eggs
  • 660g plain flour
  • 4 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g flaked almonds
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

Once all 8 cakes were baked I had a job trying to find places to store them. A bit of strategic thinking and double wrapping in greaseproof paper and tin foil later 8 cakes were ready to mature for a month before being iced. I’ll tell you all about that adventure later on along with our house flooding 2 weeks before the wedding and making over 100 sugar flowers…

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

Love from the new Mrs Lauren Hoy x


Me – more bridey than cakey

This is part 1 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 ‚Äď My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake –¬†My biggest booziest cake yet¬†

Part 2 ‚Äď How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

Lauren’s Layered Lamington Cake

Lauren's Layered Lamington Cake

Lauren’s Layered Lamington Cake

You may realise by now that I LOVE Lamingtons. They are definitely one of my Australian highlights, alongside the cake shops in St Kilda and the koalas hanging out in eucalyptus trees. It’s been a while since I baked any of these sweet treats and I must apologise it’s been quite some time since I wrote. It’s been a bit hectic what with getting married having a last minute trip to Berlin and oh yes fitting in the proper job too… I promise I will get back to some international baking VERY soon (and also share with you the photos of my wedding cake too!). In the meantime I wanted to share with you an experimental Layered Lamington Cake that I made up the other day.

I had promised Chris a tiered Lamington Cake for the wedding. Something that I had imagined in my mind but frankly in amongst baking and icing 5 layers of fruit cake, making 150 sugar flowers, our house flooding 2 weeks before the wedding and baking brownies and Lavender meringues I never had the opportunity to bring to life. Until now. So here it is!¬†A slightly smaller scale Layered Lamington Wedding Cake for Chris. Next time I will bake 2 more smaller cakes and stack them one on top of the other… for a tower of layered Lamington!

Lauren's Layered Lamington Cake

Lauren’s Layered Lamington Cake – 3 layers of coconut madeira, double chocolate coated and jam sandwiched

I wanted to make a more grown up version of the Lamington. More luxurious, decadent and slightly prettier than the Lamington bricks that I’ve made previously. To produce this I incorporated the coconut into the sponge, which meant I could keep the top of the cake coconut free to showcase the shiny chocolate ganache, whilst preserving the coconut and chocolate Lamington tradition. I double coated the cake in chocolate soup sauce first before a double chocolate ganache layer to increase the luxuriousness of the Lamington. And then to add an extra level of height and flavour why not add a third layer of sponge, one more than your traditional Lamington sandwich. It’s an extremely indulgent cake. One to be enjoyed on a special occasion perhaps. It takes a bit of organising and assembling, but I can assure you it’s worth the effort! Chris definitely enjoyed it and so did my friends. If you fancy having a go I’ve included the instructions below.

As the cake is entirely encased in chocolate and contains a double layer of jam it’s ¬†a light and moist sponge. I’m hungry just reminiscing about it now! Hope you enjoy it as much as me.

Lauren’s Layered Lamington Recipe

Coconut Madeira Sponge Cake

  • Caster Sugar 250g
  • Butter 300g
  • Self Raising Flour 400g
  • Desiccated Coconut 50g
  • Pinch of salt
  • Milk 6 tablespoons
  • 2 x 8 inch round cake tins
  • Bake at 170 degrees Celsius (fan)¬† for 25-30 minutes
  1. Cream together sugar and butter
  2. Sift in flour and baking powder and gently fold it into the creamed butter and sugar
  3. Fold in desiccated coconut
  4. Fold in milk
  5. Gently pour mixture into 2  greased and lined 8 inch round cake tins
  6. Carefully level the mixture
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven until the cakes shrinks back from the sides of the tin, is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean from the sponge
  8. Let the cakes cool in the tin for 10 minutes to hold their shape
  9. Remove from tin and place on cooling rack
  10. When fully cooled carefully split one cake in 2 down the centre with a sharp knife
  11. Carefully level the other sponge removing the top (you can then sample the top bit of the sponge!)

Filling Strawberry Jam  (you could buy a jar or make it yourself)

  • 1kg strawberries
  • 1kg granulated sugar
  • ¬Ĺ¬†lemon, juice only
  • small knob of¬†butter
  1. Heat equal amounts of fruit and sugar in a large pan
  2. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved
  3. Stir in lemon juice and butter
  4. Stop stirring and boil rapidly (about 10minutes)
  5. Keep boiling the jam and checking the consistency of the jam every 10  minutes and take it off the heat once it coats the back of a spoon (this could take up to an half an hour but hopefully less!)
  6. Allow the jam to cool and set slightly in the pan


  • Butter 25g
  • Sifted icing sugar 450g
  • Sifted cocoa powder 50g
  • Milk 120ml
  • Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
  1. Sift all of the ingredients into a large bowl
  2. Put the bowl over a pan of boiling water
  3. Melt the butter over a low heat
  4. Stir together to make a thick chocolate soup
  5. Remove from heat
  6. (but if it gets too hot pop it back on the heat to warm through)

Chocolate Ganache

  • Plain¬†chocolate 140g
  • Double cream 200ml
  • Milk chocolate 25g
  1.  Heat the double cream over a low heat in a pan
  2. Break up the chocolate into small pieces
  3. Allow the cream to become piping hot then take it off the heat
  4. Throw in the chocolate and stir until it’s really smooth and shiny

Layered Lamington Assembly

  1. Have a pre-prepared cake stand/plate to arrange it all onto
  2. Turn the bottom of the sponge face upwards (from the one sponge that you’ve split in 2) spoon a generous amount of chocolate icing soup onto the sponge and spread it evenly over the sponge base and sides. (Lamingtons are supposed to be encased in chocolate and this will help to fix it to your stand too…)
  3. Give it a few minutes to ‚Äėset slightly‚Äô then flip over the sponge so the chocolate is face down on your cake plate.
  4. Spoon half the jar of strawberry  jam onto the sponge and spread evenly.
  5. Place the other half of the sponge cake on top of the jam and press gently.
  6. Spoon the rest of the jam on top of the sponge and sandwich the final layer of sponge on top. (smoothest side up)
  7. Rest the cake in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to set the jam and hold sponge in place
  8. Pour the chocolate soup all over the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Removing excess icing to give a smooth ‚Äėcrumb coating‚Äô and hold the cakes in place
  9. Return to the fridge to allow it to set for 5 minutes
  10. Pour the hot chocolate ganache all over the cake and sides. Ensure you have a smooth and shiny coat by tilting the cake to run the ganache down the sides, use a palette knife if necessary to sharpen the edges of the cake.
  11.  Use a hairdryer if needed to melt the ganache slightly to create a smooth finish
  12. Repeat ganache layer again to double coat the cake.
  13. Whilst the chocolate is still wet carefully sprinkle the sides of the cake with desiccated coconut, use a cupped hand to press the coconut into the ganache, leaving the top of the cake free so the ganache shines through
  14.  Allow the ganache to set at room temperature to maintain the high gloss finish and serve in huge chunks with a bucket of tea.

In an English Country Garden! Clandestine Cake Club – Lavender and Coconut Madeira Cake

Following on from my¬†disastrous Lavender and Coconut Bibingka Cake attempt I had ¬†one evening left before the Clandestine Cake Club to create a new and English Country Garden themed cake… I toyed with the idea of a rose flavoured bundt and earl grey tea and then fell upon the idea of a Lavender and Coconut Madeira Cake instead! Normally a citrusy based sponge cake I reckoned I could substitute some ingredients and make my own recipe… Dangerous and experimental with a very short time limit? Sounds good to me!

Emergency Lavender and Coconut Madeira Cake

Unfortunately I can’t count this towards my aroundtheworldin80bakes challenge as I have already baked SO much from England. Despite it’s continental name, Madeira Cake is actually from England. It’s a typical afternoon tea type of sponge cake and one of my favourites! The sponge in the Lamingtons that I made earlier is very similar to a madeira sponge. I love¬†it’s moistness and I think (shock horror) I prefer it to a Victoria Sponge¬†which¬†(when I make it) can be a bit on the dry side.

Funnily enough Madeira cake and Madelines seemed to be very popular when I was in China. I ate rather a lot with my green tea!

Lavender and Coconut Madeira Cake (I can’t spell Madeira in this picture and this was my fourth attempt!)

I used a basic Marguerite Patten recipe and adapted it, replacing the lemon and orange zests with lavender sugar. I used the leftover lavender infused sugar (as mentioned in my last post) to add the lavender to the madeira recipe. I also substituted the milk for coconut milk and steeped some dried lavender in the milk for good measure while I whisked the butter and sugar together.

Beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy

I think the key to a maderia cake is to keep beating the butter and sugar until it becomes a lighter yellow colour and then add in one egg at a time. Whisk it all together until you think it’s ready and then beat it a bit more!

Whisking the eggs and coconut milk

Whisking the eggs and milk into the beaten butter and sugar

Fold in the sifted flour

All baked in my lovely new leak proof and non stick tin (no lining required!)

Unfortunately I got a bit carried away with the generous sprinkling of lavender sugar on the top of the cake and it dried out in the oven and cracked. I hadn’t intended on icing it at all, but the top layer crumbled away so on with the buttercream! (and no one will know the difference!)

Naked Madeira – pre cracked top

I usually enjoy my madeira cake plain with a cup of tea, especially as the edges a little more crunchy and sugary. However emergency butter cream was required and I whisked it up with another experimental addition. Coconut powder, icing sugar, blue food colouring, a little red food colouring and vanilla essence! This made the fluffiest icing that I have ever made! It was a bit touch and go for a while as my colourings ended up at grey rather than purple, so I kept adding blue until I got to lavender blue colour instead.

Lavender blue (and a sprinkle of glitter, coconut and lavender petals)

I didn’t have time for fancy piping so I plopped the icing on the cake with my palette knife and smoothed it round. Rustic looking, with a sprinkle of coconut and lavender, as Mary Berry suggests, to use a little of what’s inside the¬†cake, on top of the cake to decorate it. I also couldn’t resist a sprinkle of glitter too…

The Cakes arriving at Cladestine Cake Club

All I had to do, was store it in the fridge over night. Then run home to collect it after work. The Clandestine Cake Club was held in the Garden Kitchen in Eldon Gardens this month. It was a fantastic venue, so light and airy!

So many gorgeous cakes to try!

The cakes were fantastic! I managed to sample, (almost) all of the cakes this time round. There were 20 bakers at this club with a guest each. I think I tried about 15 cakes! As most of them had fruit (and vegetables) in them they were quite light. I really enjoyed the English Country Garden theme.

Orange Blossom and Pistachio

I loved meeting lots of new faces at the CCC too and catching up with fellow bakers and bloggers Nelly¬†¬†and Lisa (who organised the Newcastle CCC, it’s definitely worth checking out her blog!). Thankfully my cake seemed to be well received and there wasn’t a piece left at the end of the night! No one seemed to notice the cracked top that the buttercream was hiding too. I even took along my Bibingka Cake, just in case anyone wanted to try it, but there were far too many other lovely cakes to choose from, so I’m not surprised I ended up taking it home with me again!

Real Strawberries were hidden inside the giant carved cake strawberry! Delicious!

I’m looking forward to the next CCC event in July, where I will be baking something from the 18th Century for the EAT Festival! (I have no idea what I will be baking yet as google hasn’t offered many suitable recipes at the moment… all ideas are very welcome!)


Things I used to make Lavender and Coconut Madeira Cake…

Madeira Sponge

  • 6 0z of margarine (stork)
  • 7 oz caster sugar (infused with lavender petals)
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • about 1 tablespoon of dried lavender petals (for the sugar infusion)
  • 2 tablespoons of light coconut milk (you can use normal milk if you prefer)
  • about 1 tsp of dried lavender petals to infuse in the coconut milk

Coconut Buttercream

  • approximately 250g stork margarine
  • as much icing sugar as required to achieve smooth pale fluffy and thick consistency (approximately 200g)
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • a generous 1-2 tbp powdered coconut milk
  • a sprinkle of dried lavender petals and¬†desiccated¬†coconut (and glitter)
  • blue food colouring (add as much as desired)

* This recipe was lovingly¬†adapted¬†from Marguerite Patten’s Luxury Madeira Cake Recipe, Everyday Food Cookbook

33. Fill your boots – Filipino Lavender and Coconut Bibinkga Cake

Just to make life that little bit more difficult for my trip this month to the¬†Clandestine¬†Cake Club I¬†insisted¬†upon incorporating some international aroundtheworldin80bakes baking into the¬†English Garden themed bake¬†. Up for yet another challenge I searched for and discovered an unusual recipe for a cake I’ve never even heard of before! Bibinkga cake (also known as mochiko cake) from the Philippines. (Another country on my still to be visited list too).

Lavender & Coconut Bibingka

So I was aiming to create an experimental English country garden cake with an aroundtheworldin80bakes twist… Hence lavender and coconut Bibinkga cake. I won’t be shocked if you don’t know what a Bibingka cake is, in fact I am very impressed if you are familiar with this cake. I was very intrigued by the idea of baking a rice flour cake with condensed milk and sugar. The twist of lavender offered¬†a nod to the traditional English country garden theme.

I was a bit nervous creating something so different for CCC as everyone brings such beautiful and wonderous cakes along. But I am the one who conjured up my own challenge and therefore I must stick to it. When there is a baking requirement I see an international baking opportunity! (Despite most of my friends and family’s preference for chocolate cake… )

Even with my aroundtheworldin80bakes dedication/obsession I still felt some trepidation and so baked the Bibinkga 2 days in advance… just in case of epic disasters. I must be psychic. I’m so pleased that I realised my own limitations and didn’t pin all of my hopes on this bake!

What goes into to Lavender and Coconut Bibingka Cake?

It was a fairly quick bake with a bit of whisking. Last year I made lavender shortbread (which I loved and gave to friends and family for Christmas). I learnt a really great way of introducing lavender to baking by infusing dried culinary lavender for a week or two in an airtight container filled with sugar. Just popping the lid of the sugar jar is a little breath of heaven when you’re making lavender sugar. This time round I still had some lavender stored up so infused the sugar for a week or so before baking this. It really does make all the difference as lavender can be a little too delicate to flavour a full cake.

Lavender Sugar – pre blitzing in all it’s infused glory

To ensure the sugar was REALLY lavendery and evenly distributed throughout, I threw couple of tablespoons of dried flowers into the sugar and after their infusion used my stick blender to blitz it all up together.

Frothing up nicely

This was really quite a quick bake and so the most effort required was for the whisking. I used my handheld electric whisk to whisk together the coconut milk, evaporated milk and melted butter. I whisked this up until it was a lovely creamy yellow colour and frothy, (and of course all up the walls in the kitchen) probably for around 5 minutes.

Then I whisked in the eggs, and whisked to incorporate as much air as possible.

Even Frothier

Still using my hand held whisk I added the lavender sugar  and vanilla extract, and whisked it until it was a smooth runny batter. Then to  gradually beat/whisk the rice flour into the batter. I added 1/2 cup at a time to attempt to avoid dreaded lumps and bumps.

After all that whisking, all that’s left to do is to pour the very fluid batter into a pre prepared grased and lined baking ¬†tin. I used a rectangluar roasting pan about 13cm by 9cm

Oven Ready Bibingka

With a generous sprinkle of dessicated coconut and a bit extra lavender for good luck the Bibingka cake was ready for a good baking  for 45 mins at 190 degrees C (or 375 degrees F)

The recipe warned that the cake would look like it had risen and it wasn’t wrong.¬†¬†20 minutes into the baking time there was no waft of cake floating from the oven nor any lavender perfume warming the air. Concerned, I checked the oven to discover I had created a balloon cake. One end dangerous puffed up with air and close to being frazzled whilst the other end lay calm and flat baking quietly.

Burnt Bibingka Balloon

When faced with a disproportionate cake inflation do you a) leave it alone, it may sort itself out? or b) open the oven and pop it with the closest thing to hand (usually a chopstick in my house). Being uncharacteristically sensible I did a) and now I really regret not popping the balloon with a chopstick.

Perhaps I whisked the batter into a frenzy and added too much air? I may have been a bit lazy just using the electric whisk for the entire cake creation process? Perhaps I should have folded in the flour rather than whisking it? The recipe did say that it would deflate after rising so I waited. And waited. And after 45minutes in the oven and a cooling off period. It STILL hasn’t deflated.

The final product

I clearly do not have the Bibingka skills! Once it had cooled I sliced it up into squares and had a little taste. God knows what I did wrong to this poor cake but it was utterly devoid of taste or fragrance. The complete opposite of my lavender shortbread which perfumed the entire house. It was rather dense, chewy and a bit on the greasy side for my liking. Perhaps I used the wrong type of rice flour? Perhaps it was the light coconut milk that I picked up by accident? Or perhaps my lavender had lost it’s oomph?!

Hollow on the inside, flat on the outside

Either way I couldn’t possibly take it to the Clandestine Cake Club in it’s lumpy, hollow and burnt state. Sometimes things go wrong in my kitchen, I’m not ashamed to admit it… it was fun experimenting all the same. It just meant I had some emergency baking to do and a new recipe to¬†conjure¬†up, quickly! Bring on the next challenge!

Things that I used to create Lavender and Coconut Bibingka Cake

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (about half a can)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk (about half a can)
  • 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • My Russian Doll measuring cups (every chance I get to use an American recipe!)
  • baking tin 13cm x 9cm
  • 190 degrees C oven for 45minutes

I found this recipe over at Kensington Kitchen’s Wonderful Blog¬†. Thank you for sharing and thank you very much for reading.

27. Paul Hollywood’s Peshwari Naan Bread – India

Paul Hollywood’s Naan Bread

Rolling¬†on to India and bake number 26! (All this baking is taking its toll! I’m now increading my exercise to 15 miles of walking a week, Ashtanga yoga and the occasional spin class/torture session.) But I love food and¬†I love naan bread, particularly Peshwari Naan but then again who doesn’t love a good Naan? And not just any Naan bread but Paul Hollywood’s, the King of bread bakers, Naan bread?

Looking for the perfect accompaniment to my home made dahl and pilau rice I stumbled across the Paul Hollywood recipe I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Any excuse to whip out¬†my¬†trusty food processor too! I combined the flour, yeast, salt and oil and mixed it all up using the dough hook attachment, adding water until it became¬†a good sticky dough.

The food processor alone was not enough to knead the dough properly and the food processor was about to leap off the worksurface with the sheer effort of spinning the dough. I had to admit defeat and resort to my own hands.

Shiny Happy People – Kneady Stuff

I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes on an oiled surface, to stop it sticking, which is so much easier than a floured surface. Until it was smooth and shiny and bounced back when pressed lightly. It’s times like these that I wish I was 2 inches taller so I didn’t have to knead the dough whilst teetering about on¬†my tip toes to get the right force required!

Time to Prove

Whilst the dough proved under it’s oiled cling film covering I set to work on arranging my naan flavours. Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for¬†caraway seeds¬†and coriander. Unable to follow any recipe without substituting something or ad libbing somewhere, I decided to attempt a Peshwari Naan, guessing that I could throw some crushed garlic, spices (coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds), raisins and coconut into the mix and it would produce Peshwari Naan. Upon opening the cupboard I found dried fruit store severely depleted! My normal store cupboard staple, raisins, were nowhere to be found! (I forgot earlier in the week I bought an extra double amount to feed an entire litre of rum to for a very special future bake!¬†All of my dried fruit is currently sitting patiently soaking up lashings of rum. All will be revealed soon!)

Naan Flavourings: Coconut, Garlic, Coriander, Cardamom Seeds and Cumin

Slightly disappointed I ploughed on with a combination of coconut, half a bulb of crushed garlic, dried coriander and cumin instead. Noting I must buy more dried fruit as soon as possible.

Risen to perfection

After about an hour of rising, (near the hot hob on the stove while I was cooking a chicken and vegetable dahl to encourage the dough to prove) the dough had doubled in size and was ready to be flavoured! I added the flavours a third at a time and kneaded them thoroughly through the dough.

Flavoured and divided

Once all the coconutty goodness was distributed evenly throughout the dough I¬†rolled it into a fat sausage to chop it into quarters.¬†Each quarter of dough should then be cut in half and flattened. Paul Hollywood is obviously a bit more of a perfectionist than me as he insists that a rolling pin is required to flatten the dough portions out.¬†I can’t believe that people in India whip out a rolling pin at this point and so I decided to do all this flattening with my bare hands. Which did mean that my first attempt was more like a paperback novel than a fluffy, naan bread.

Stacks of semi flattened naan bread dough – must be flatter than this before hitting the pan!

I re-read the recipe and realised that the dough should be stretched into circles about 25cm in diameter, probably twice as big as my inital attempt! This explains the chunky naan brick that I produced.

Chunky Naan

Once flattened the dough has to be rested again for 5 minutes before plopping them (individually)¬†into a hot pan with a splash of oil. I quite enjoyed the sizzle of the naan in the oil as the naan¬†immediately puffed up and bubbled away happily in the pan. Then a quick flip over to sizzle it on the other side too. I was worried the coconut would all fall off as I got a bit bored whilst frying up the naans and decided to press some more coconut and coriander into the awaiting naan breads. I’m not sure if Paul Hollywood would approve of my inconsistent making-it-up-as-I-go-along approach but hey they were looking golden and¬†lovely¬†in the pan, so why worry about presentation and consistency now?!

Naan -ish and Golden (look at those bubbly edges!)

Once the naan is golden brown on both sides,¬†it’s ready to hop out of the pan on onto a plate. I continued pan frying all 8 of the naans, piling them high on a plate ready to be devoured with daahl.

Stacks of Naan

Tea time! It smelt amazing, although a tad smokey in my kitchen as I definitely had the heat up too high on the pan. The windows had to be opened to get rid of the haze in order to see at one point. But other than my carelessness when it comes to fire safety, this recipe was a resounding success. I did slightly chargrill (burnt) one naan and created a naan brick, but I still had 6 more naans to get the technique right with. When I eventually got it right, I really got it right!

Chargrilled Naan

The bread was fluffy and light around the edges with thinner crispier bits towards the middle, where I had possibly been a bit¬†over enthusiastic with my thinning process.¬†I quite liked the texture and it was a good call to add an extra layer of coconut before frying the bread as it toasted on the top. Lovely! I’ve frozen the rest of the batch after we had eaten our share, to be defrosted in naan bread emergencies, of which I’m sure I will have many.

Tea Time! (The naan was so massive I couldn’t fit it all on the plate or in the photo…)

The recipe, just in case you would like to try it is…

    • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
    • 10g/¬ľoz salt
    • 15g/¬Ĺoz fresh yeast
    • 30ml/1fl oz olive oil
    • water, to mix
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds (I substituted this for – the crushed¬†seeds of 4 cardamom pods)
    • 1 tsp caraway seeds¬†(I used a generous 1 tsp of dried coriander¬†and 1 tsp cumin)
    • I then added further to Paul’s recipe with 1/2 a cereal bowl of coconut (sorry its a very rough guestimate, my usual measurement unit)

You can also find the full Paul Hollywood Naan Bread recipe on the BBC Food website.

Paul Hollywood’s Naan Bread Recipe