Monday, 31 March 2014

Courgette cake

I love using veg in my baking. I wanted to do something a bit different from the usual carrot so started with butternut squash. I stuck to this as it works so well. I will have to post the recipe for my butternut squash cake at some point. But then I tried using courgettes in a cake and the result is beautiful! You really can’t taste the courgettes in it and not only do they add a healthy element - the cake is light, moist and flavourful.  

I use this Courgette cake recipe which makes a two layer cake. Hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do!


The Cake:
60g of raisins or sultanas
250g of courgettes
2 large eggs
125ml of vegetable oil
150g of caster sugar
225g of self-raising flour
½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
½ a teaspoon of baking powder
Lemon Curd Filling:
2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon curd
Lime Cream Cheese Icing:
200g of cream cheese
100g of icing sugar, sieved
juice of ½ a lime or lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC/Gas Mark 4.
Grease and line two round cake tins.
2. Plump up the sultanas or raisins in a small bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
3. Grate the courgettes coarsely and place in a sieve over the sink or another bowl to drain out the excess moisture.
4. Place the eggs, oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together until creamy.
Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
Continue to beat until well incorporated.
Stir in the courgette and drained sultanas/raisins.
5. Divide the cake mixture between the two tins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until firm to the touch and slightly browned.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few tins before turning out onto cooling racks to cool fully.
6. Meanwhile make the topping.
Beat the cream cheese for a few minutes before adding the icing sugar.
Continue to beat for a few minutes more before beating in the lime juice.
7. Now to assemble the cake.
Place one cake on your cake stand or plate.
Spread over the lemon curd.
Sandwich over the other cake.
Spread the frosting over the top of the cake.




You don’t have to soak the raisins if you don’t want too. I didn’t the last time I made this.

I also got away with not draining the courgettes the last time I made them. But it may be best to err on the side of caution and do so. I noticed people on this website (same recipe but with less detailed instructions) commenting that their cakes turned out soggy from not draining the courgettes.

I may chop up my raisins/sultanas next time so they are more evenly dispersed. Leigh liked them kept whole so you can taste them when you come across one. Personal preference really.

I tried making cupcakes with this recipe and managed to make a one layer cake with ten cupcakes. I cut out the middle of each cupcake, filled with a dollop of lemon curd, placed the cake back on top, and then topped with the icing. This made for a nice surprise when eating the cupcake! I also added some lemon sugar crunchies to the topping. This gave the cakes a splash of colour and extra texture. The original recipe suggests chopped pistachios as a topping, which I think would be nice too.

cake batter


white cakes


yellow cake

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Week off work (24-30/3/14)

I’ll start this post by being honest with you. I haven’t been feeling great lately and that is why I haven’t blogged for a while. My eczema has been flaring up and getting increasingly worse. I've been at risk of redundancy for some time now. The stress at work and my skin has been getting me down and I’m not coping very well. I’ve still been baking a lot but it hasn’t given me much enjoyment like it normally does.

Anyways, I had my first doctor’s appointment in ages on Monday re. my eczema. By the end of it, I managed to get a referral to a dermatologist. I’m glad, as I’m not getting any improvement from my current prescriptions (that I have been on for years!). But I am also not very hopeful that the dermatologist will be able to help much.

Eating out

My bro Aaron was also on holiday from work this week. We planned to do a couple of day trips but the weather turned bad and put a dampener on these plans.

We did manage to visit  Northumberlandia: the lady of the North (if only briefly!) before the heavy rain drove us into the nearby pub The Snowy Owl.



Northumberlandia is definitely a visit reserved for better weather. It’s nice to walk all around the Lady of the North.

The Snowy Owl in Blagdon is a pub right beside the Northumberlandia site. I have been once before for a cuppa, and because it was before lunchtime, me and Aaron decided on a coffee and cake rather than a full lunch. The food menu does look good though – I will have to return to try it out another time. They do an offer of a hot drink and a mini dessert for £4.50. We went for the gooseberry and raspberry oaty crumble with vanilla ice cream and churros warm Spanish doughnuts, served with chocolate sauce.

I wasn’t impressed with either of the desserts unfortunately. The crumble was alright but I would have liked more of the warm filling – it seemed a disproportionate amount of crumble to filling. Aaron did really like the oaty crumble though and I enjoyed the vanilla icecream. The churros was by far the worst dessert. The inside was unpleasant – it was gooey and seemed undercooked. Whilst Aaron found there to be too much of a sugar coating and I found the chocolate sauce bland.

The weather got so bad that it began to thunder and lightening whilst we were here. There was a power cut but we were leaving about then anyways so it didn’t affect us too much.

snowy owl
The Snowy Owl

I got to try a new restaurant this week. Me, my bro and parents ate at The Lock and Key Restaurant. This is quite a new restaurant and on first appearances looked very promising. The menu looked great with plenty of things I wanted to eat on it. However, the food did not deliver on my expectations.

My starter of scallops was very disappointing. They were small and not very fresh. There was far too much hash accompanying it than was needed. Any why only give me two and a half scallops? What is with the half scallop?!

My dad's main of a sharing meat plank featured some of the most overcooked meat I have ever tasted. Dry as a bone.

My main was by far the most disappointing dish of them all. The fish cakes were terrible - worst ones I have ever eaten, and I've eaten a few. The stirfried vegetables underneath were blackened and bitter - probably the result of using a dirty pan to cook them and then overcooking to a burnt crisp. Very little skill and finesse on a plate. Very very poor.

The service, like the food was also dire. I normally would get a dessert but was so disappointed with my savoury dishes that I didn't want to spend any more money/waste any more time in the restaurant than was needed. I haven't got anything positive to say about The Lock and Key.

I would have complained about the food if I had to pay full price for it. As it so happened, the four of us ate there with 2 Taste cards, so the bill ended up being half price.

I would not recommend going to this restaurant. And I certainly will not be returning again.

PicMonkey Collage
Logo taken from The Lock and Key website

It was my friend Emma's birthday and we went for a meal at El Coto in Newcastle. An enjoyable meal with a decent choice of food to share with everyone.

Emma's birthday at El Coto

Home baking

I picked up a bunch of Organic bananas for super cheap – reduced to 5p from Asda! And so I had to make my Banoffee cupcakes (see recipe).


cake batter

As well as Banoffee cupcakes, I had a go at making my interpretation of a Banoffee cake. Same recipe as the cupcakes except I baked it in a round tin then topped with whipped cream, grated chocolate and dried banana chips. Makes a delicious and decadent dessert!





For the start of Spring/Mother’s day, I fancied trying to make triple citrus cupcakes. I happened to have oranges, lemons and limes in which is quite unusual. I thought citrus colours and zesty flavours would work well as they're light and sunny.

I didn’t make these in the end but instead made my Courgette cake with lemon curd and lime cream cheese frosting. I happened to pick up a few courgettes for cheap. And this is gorgeous. I’ve made it in the past a couple of times and it received rave reviews from so many people!


This time, I made a single layer Courgette cake and cupcakes. I didn’t use lemon curd on the cake but put a dollop in each of the cupcakes. The cakes were also topped with lemon sugar crunchies. Recipe here.

yellow cake


I got a request from Leigh’s work colleague Rob to make a Birthday cake. He requested a chocolate caramel cake. I already use a good recipe for caramel buttercream icing (same icing used for Banoffee cupcakes recipe). And it so happened that The Primrose Bakery Book has a recipe for a triple layer chocolate cake that goes with the caramel buttercream icing. It was meant to be.


I made some cupcakes with leftover cake batter and icing, so I could try the finished cake without cutting into it. I’m pleased to say that the combo works well. The cake is very soft, moist and chocolately which is balanced well with the sweetness and firmness of the icing.

Rob enjoyed his birthday cake – he said it was “beautiful”. None returned home with Leigh, so I assume everyone else enjoyed it too! :-)

See recipe here.


Triple layer chocolate & caramel cake

At the end of March, I had a request to make a birthday cake for Leigh’s work colleague Rob. At which, I jumped at the chance. Any chance to bake and share my baked goodies ;-) This was my first birthday cake I have made and I'm sure wont be the last!

I also took the opportunity to use my stand mixer for the first time. I have been wanting one for ages, and in particular a Kitchen Aid. But I always held off as they’re so expensive. My dad’s place of work was getting rid of their Kenwood industrial stand mixer and my dad asked if I wanted it. I was made up :-) Whisking egg whites have never been easier!


Rob had requested a chocolate and caramel cake. This was perfect as I have made caramel buttercream icing before (see recipe here) and there was a chocolate layer cake recipe that goes with it (from the same Primrose Bakery book). The combo goes brilliantly together. Rob and colleagues enjoyed this celebration cake and Rob said it was “beautiful” :-)

I used 500g of cake batter for each layer and managed to make 6 cupcakes, as well as a 3 layer chocolate cake. If you don’t want cupcakes, just put more cake batter divided evenly between the tins. I also baked the cakes for less time than the recipe stated. I would test if the cakes are cooked 10 minutes before end of recommended cooking time. Keep testing and remove from oven once cooked. I ended up cooking mine for 10 minutes less. Longer and the cake would have been really dry.


For the chocolate cakes:


230g good-quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
370g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Two pinches of salt
500ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
2 tsp good-quality vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Grease and line 3 x 20cm sandwich cake tins with baking paper.
2. Melt the chocolate:
you can do this in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on the hob,
but the easiest way is in the microwave - 
place the chocolate in a microsafe bowl and heat for 30 second intervals,
stirring after each 30 seconds until melted.
3. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer, until pale and smooth.
Slowly add the egg yolks and beat well.
Next, add the melted chocolate and beat well again.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a separate bowl and stir together.
5. Measure the milk into a jug and stir in the vanilla extract.
8. Gradually add alternate amounts of flour mixture and the milk to the chocolate, butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
9. In a clean bowl and using a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed.
Then using a spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the main batter until it is all combined.
10. Divide the  batter evenly between the tins (use between 500g and 600g batter in each tin)
and smooth the tops with a spatula.
11. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes,
until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean.
12. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in their tins for about 10 minutes
before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
N.B. Un-iced, these sponge cakes can be wrapped in cling film
and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days, or even frozen and then defrosted when needed.





For the Caramel buttercream icing:


90g unsalted butter
135ml (9 tbsp) semi-skimmed milk
330g light soft brown sugar
360g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Combine the butter, milk and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and put on the hob over a high heat.
Stirring continuously, bring the mixture to a boil.
Allow it to boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and stir in half of the icing sugar.
2. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then add the rest of the icing sugar and the vanilla extract.
Stir until it thickens to the desired consistency. It will have a slightly runny consistency, which works well with the cake.
If you leave it and it starts to set, just transfer to a microwave-safe bowl
and soften it for a few seconds in the microwave before beating again, and if necessary, add a little double cream.
3. Ice the top of each cake with the caramel buttercream icing
and allow it to set a little before sandwiching the cakes together and serving.
N.B. If you leave the icing to set for too long, it will be more likely to crack when assembling the cakes.




Thursday, 20 March 2014



Happy What I Ate Wednesday! As always, thanks to Jenn over at peas and crayons for hosting!

These are my eats from Wednesday :-)

My hubby has been feeling unwell this week with a cold and I’ve been feeling like I may be coming down with something in the mornings. So, I started off my Wednesday morning with a cup of hot water, lemon juice and honey.

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I don’t tend to cook myself something for breakfast (I leave that for the hubby to do in the weekends!) but I fancied it today. I had smoked bacon, a fried egg and mushrooms.


I then got started on making bread. I made two batches today, so I could freeze a batch for another time. I had ‘Light brown farmhouse’ flour that needed using up, so two batches did the job. I tend to mix my flours and use a good quality organic one like ‘Shipton Mill’ or ‘Doves’ alongside a cheaper one like ‘Allinson’ or ‘Hovis’. This makes the better quality stuff (which is more expensive) stretch further. The recipe I use all the time is a white bread recipe. But it does work well if you substitute 20% or so of the white flour for brown flour. Which is what I did today.

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These rose beautifully during its’ first prove.

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The dough was so soft and pliable afterwards.

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And success!

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I had a baking fail yesterday when I tried a new Gilchesters recipe for Farmhouse bread using 100% brown flour. They looked better outside than they did inside. They were undercooked. I know not to use that recipe again! That’s why I used my usual recipe today. I do like trying new things but sometimes it is best to stick to what you know!

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I had lunch at my mum’s house, which was a pepperoni pizza (unpictured). We then went to a few supermarkets and did some food shopping.

Soon as I got back, it was time to prep for dinner. I fancied making a Cottage Pie for the first time. I looked up some recipes online and pulled the main components together to make my own. I feel like I’ve been lacking in veggies recently, so it was good to include a variety for dinner. There were shallot onions, garlic, celery, carrots in the Cottage Pie and green beans as a side.

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For the base layer of the cottage pie, I browned off some beef mince and set aside. I then fried off the shallot onions and garlic, followed by addition of celery and carrots. I added the beef mince back to the pan, as well as a glass of red wine and approx. 750ml of beef stock. I then seasoned with a bouquet garni, salt, cracked black pepper, sugar and tomato puree. I boiled to thicken the sauce and to infuse flavour into the gravy. I then removed the meat and veg, strained the liquid which I returned to the pan to further reduce down.

If I hadn’t used the red wine, I would have added Worcestershire sauce. Also if I hadn’t used the tomato puree and sugar, I would have used some Heinz tomato sauce.

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Remember to remove the bouquet garni before adding second layer or mashed potato and cheese!

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What a beauty!

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This Cottage Pie was so so delicious. Really chuffed with my first attempt at making one. I will definitely be making this again! It felt like a luxurious Sunday dinner :-) I’m looking forward to having leftovers tomorrow!

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My bread bun was spot on too. Sometimes I leave the buns in the oven to cook longer than they need but took them out earlier this time. And they turned out lovely and soft, not only on the inside but outside too!

For dessert, I had a mini Snicker icecream bar.

As the Cottage Pie was cooking in the oven, I had chopped some of yesterday’s undercooked bread into pieces and put in the oven to dry out.

I will keep some of these for croutons for soup and blitz some in the food processor to make breadcrumbs. These will make a tasty addition to meatballs/beef burgers. Not entirely a waste then!

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At the end of the night, it was time to make sandwiches for next day’s packed lunches. I was pleased with how soft my loaf also turned out. Sometimes, it’s softer/drier than others. You just never know until you slice it!

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You can see what other bloggers have been eating at the WIAW party here!