Gastronomically Terrific

January 5, 2015

Victorian Christmas Cake

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:52 am

45 Christmas CakeAs with all traditional Christmas cakes, I started making this at the end of October, two months before it was due to get eaten. Well how else do you achieve that amazing boozy taste?!

This is a fairly traditional Christmas cake (there’s a clue in the name), where you soak the fruits the night before, then mix them in with the sugars, flours and treacle etc, then bake the whole heavy thing in the oven for about 4 hours. It really does make the house smell amazing though. You then spend the next 6-8 weeks feeding the cake with sherry/ brandy/ rum/ whatever you prefer (you can use orange juice, but I don’t see why). My drink of choice this year was sherry.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I then covered the cake with marzipan. I have to admit that I didn’t do a fantastic job (the sides in particular looked somewhat patchy), but I wasn’t too worried as I knew a week later the cake would also get covered in icing. And so it did.

I put off covering the cake with icing because I knew I was being fairly ambitious in what I wanted to do, so it took me a couple of days to build up the courage (especially as I had messed up the marzipan so effectively). In the end I didn’t do a bad job, although I do think a little less may have looked better. I added snowflakes (using my shiny new snowflake cutters) to the sides of the cake, separating them with smaller snowflakes and silver balls.

I then used green icing to add a Christmas tree and holly leaves to the top of the cake. I decorated the tree with a white icing star covered in gold edible glitter, added silver sprinkles for tinsel and silver balls for baubles. Finally, I used pomegranate seeds for the holly berries – although it turns out that whatever you use for holly berries, it needs to be bright red; and therefore the colour runs. Bright red pomegranate juice covered my kitchen for a while…

Overall the whole thing looked OK, but perhaps it didn’t need the Christmas tree. Just snow flakes and holly would probably have looked more professional, and a bit more classy. However it looked, it tasted pretty good – nobody who likes Christmas cake complained anyway!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry Christmas, pg. 198


November 30, 2014

Christmas cake bites

Filed under: Cake, Christmas, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:01 pm

Whilst this is a Christmas recipe, I didn’t make it for Christmas itself. I wanted to use it as a test run for a bake that I would potentially make somebody as a Christmas present. As it happened, it worked out well because my family decided to visit right over the weekend in November that I made these bite-sized cakes, meaning they had somebody to eat them!

The bites themselves taste OK; you make them in a similar way to normal Christmas cake, by soaking apricots in alcohol for a day or so, then adding lots more fruit, sugar and flour to the recipe. You then bake the traybake for an hour or so before covering it with marzipan and icing. What you don’t do is leave the cake for weeks soaking up the additional alcohol you add to it – which, it turns out, is exactly what makes Christmas cake taste so good. These little bites are serviceable enough, but somehow lack that excess that ‘real’ Christmas cake provides. I decided they weren’t quite special enough to get upgraded to present status.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 197

September 27, 2014

Annabel’s no-bake train cake

Filed under: biscuits, Cake, party — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:49 pm
The evening before...

The evening before…

And so, the piece de resistance – a birthday cake that a 2-year old will love. As the title suggests, this cake actually required very little baking. This was a choice I made for two reasons; I recently made a work-intensive cake (see my baby in a pram party cake), and as I have already mentioned, my son isn’t a huge cake lover. What he does love, however, are chocolate fingers and biscuits. And trains. He really, really loves trains. That made this cake the perfect choice for him and me.

The idea behind this cake is that you buy a whole load of food that you wouldn’t normally let your child eat (chocolate fingers, chocolate swiss rolls, sweeties, jammy dodgers, chocolate Matchmakers etc), that put them together in order to form the shape of a train. It actually works really, really well – and took less than an hour to do, which I wasn’t expecting at all. We’d given ourselves a whole evening to put it together. The only things I did make were some chocolate buttercream (so that the sweeties and biscuits stuck on to the carriages), and I melted some chocolate to coat the engine. The latter wouldn’t have been necessary if we’d bought chocolate-coated swiss rolls, but we hadn’t.

... And the evening after

… And the evening after

The reaction from our son, and other guests alike, was totally worth it. Everybody was impressed beyond the effort that had gone in to creating the cake. Plus, you can make the train any length you like, meaning it can feed as many – or as few- guests as you want it to. Needless to say, we made way too much.

Who made it: Anna and Dan

Recipe: Annabel Karmel’s Complete Family Meal Planner, pg. 164-5

July 10, 2011

Tiramasu Cheesecake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:10 pm

This sexy little number was recommended by our friend Ella, who seems to know her cheesecakes.

Tiramasu Torte

Death by cheesecake is by far the best way to go...

Correctly baked cheesecake is perhaps the most wonderful thing in the world.  This is up there with the best, though whether it takes the top spot will depend on how much you value purity against intensity: this is like being enveloped by a rum and amaretto hug whilst Tia Maria kisses you smack on the lips.  (Don’t think about the meaning of that in Spanish.  Just don’t.)

An Amaretti biscuit base works amazingly well, adding an almondly overtone that really works.  Trust me – I was an unbeliever too.  Your cheesecake will love you for it.  The second trick is the always amazing mix of coffee, alcohol and chocolate in the marbled cheescake, which is baked into an intense perfection that you will not be able to resist.


Biscuit base: 275g amaretti biscuits, 75g unsalted butter/margarine

Cheesecake: 700g mascapone/cream cheese, 150g sugar, 3 eggs (separated), 25g plain flour, 3 tbsp dark rum, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 175g plain chocolate, 1tbsp coffee, 3 tbsp Tia Maria


Crush the biscuits in a bag or food processor, add melted butter and stir until mixed.  Press into a 9inch (23cm) cake tin and chill for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.  Beat the cheese until smooth, then add the sugar and re-beat, and then again with the egg yolks. Put half the mixture in a new bowl and add the flour, rum and vanilla.  Melt the chocolate, stir in the coffee and the Tia Maria, and add to the other half of the cheese mixture.

Beat the egg whites until gentle peaks form, then add half to each mixture and mix in gently (without beating).  Then dollop each in on to the base irregularly, using a knife to make marbled swirls on top.

Bake for 45 minutes or until gently soft in the middle.

Actually, we ever so slightly overcooked ours, with the inside perfect but the outside just a little dry.  It is safer to cook “lower in the oven” (or just at a lower temperature) and to keep it covered; it should come out sticky when you poke in a knofe (but not wet, which is how it will start).

Unlike many other cheesecakes, this is actually at its best when hot straight  from the oven.  I think its because the flavours are most intense then.  When chilled, it will taste more like cheesecake and less like alcoholic heaven, which would probably be a good thing for people who don’t like such an intense coffee flavour.

Who made it: Anna, though Dan licked everything clean.

Recipe: Good Housekeeping Cakes and Bakes (probably.. this is from memory…

October 24, 2010

Tipsy Chocolate Gateau

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 2:56 pm

The only thing missing from chocolate cake is alcohol.  Rectified!


Chocolate Gateau soaked in rum.


This is a fluffy chocolate Gateau that has been soaked in rum, covered in cream and then more chocolate.   There is a layer of jam in there too – we used cherry jam which goes very well with alcoholic chocolate.  Oddly enough, it is one of the few cakes that improves on the second day, presumably because the rum soaks through more uniformly and takes the tartness out of the cream.

We had to adapt the recipe a little to make it for two people (the book gives a recipe that serves 20…) so I’ll give what we used in full.

For the cake

3 eggs

80g caster sugar

1 teaspoon oil

60g self-raising flour

25g drinking chocolate

1/2 heaped teaspoon cocoa powder

Filling and topping

1 teaspoon coffee granules

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1/2 tablespoon boiling water

70ml water

2 tablespoons rum

A good amount of cherry jam

200ml double cream (whipped)

25g dark chocolate


  1. grease and line two 7″ (20cm) tins
  2. whisk the eggs and sugar together “until double in size” and a thick creamy texture (takes about 3 minutes, and keep the bowl warm by placing over some boiled water); drizzle in the oil slowly whilst whisking.
  3. Sieve the flour, drinking chocolate and cocoa together, then fold gently into the egg mixture.
  4. Bake at 220 celcius for 12-15 minutes until the centre springs back when touched and the mixture is set throughout., then leave to cool.
  5. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water, add the rest of the water and the rum.  Drizzle half of the liquid over the base of the sponge, and spread jam on generously.  Then spread on 1/3rd of the cream, put the top of the cake on and drizzle over the remaining rum mixture.  Spread the remaining cream on top, then melt the dark chocolate and drizzle on top in concentric circles.  The marbled effect is created by dragging a cocktail stick radially out from the centre.

I wasn’t a fan of the tartness of plain cream on the day we baked it – perhaps adding some sugar (25g?), or perhaps some more rum before whisking would sweeten the deal.  But I would say that it wasn’t a problem on day two because the rum soaked up from the top and bottom into the cream.  It makes a great pudding style cake, spongy and moist. Mmm.

Who made it: Dan and Anna jointly (its true!  I instigated this little cake fest….)

Recipe: Adapted from “Hallelujah!  Chocolate!” by The Chocolate Squad  (page 50).  I have to say that this recipe book is almost always a success…

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