In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy.
Then beat in the eggs and vanilla essence/extract until the mixture is smooth.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and fold into the mixture. Then stir in the oats and raisins until the raisins are evenly distributed. The dough will be quite stiff.
Spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, spaced well apart. The dough should make 4 dozen cookies. This may need to be done in two batches. Just make sure the baking trays/cookie sheets are allowed to cool before spooning the remaining batch of dough mixture onto them.
Bake for 10–12 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool for 1 minute on the tray and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
100g (3½ oz) good dark chocolate (minimum of 50% cocoa solids), finely chopped*
55g (2 oz) butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
For the decoration
14g (½ oz) good dark chocolate*
14g (½ oz) milk chocolate*
14g (½ oz) white chocolate*
a few gold foil or coloured chocolate mini eggs
*I love to use Lindt
A 20.5cm (8 inch) round cake tin, buttered and lined with parchment around the sides and on the bottom
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas mark 4)
Gently melt the butter in a pan, then set to one side to cool slightly.
Measure the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk using an electric hand mixer or food mixer at high speed until the mixture is pale, mousse-like and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in a separate bowl.
Stir the vanilla essence. into the cooled butter.
Carefully fold half the flour into the egg mixture, then gently pour half the cooled butter around the edge of the mixture and fold in. Repeat with the remaining flour and butter. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 40 minutes until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and cool on a wire rack.
For the filling
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Remove the bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese until it is really soft. Then add the butter and beat until well combined and creamy. A food mixer does this really well. Beat in the icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooled chocolate. Don’t over beat the mixture at this stage or it will become stiff. It should be a fudgy consistency.
Cut the cake in half horizontally and sandwich together with the filling. Return the cake to the wire rack.
For the icing
Melt the butter and half the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir gently until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir gently until it has melted and the icing is smooth. Leave to cool.
Put a plate under the cake on the wire rack and pour the icing over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Completely cover the sides by spooning a little chocolate round the top rim of the cake so it runs down the sides to fill in any gaps. Any chocolate that has dripped onto the plate below the rack can be reused for this.
Leave for at least 30 minutes to set.
For the decoration
To make the chocolate swirls, grate the dark chocolate onto a saucer using a swivel potato peeler. If the chocolate is hard, soften it a little by putting it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds. Repeat with the milk and white chocolate on separate saucers.
Sprinkle all three types of chocolate swirls over the top of the icing to decorate.
To finish, carefully place a few chocolate eggs on the top.
I am indebted to Mary Berry of The Great British Bakeoff for this recipe. It is very light, and the lemon makes it a refreshing end to a holiday meal with family and friends.
This is a lovely dessert that really does taste heavenly and looks very impressive too. The one thing I like about it is that you can prepare a lot in advance. The candied lemon peel can easily be made the day before and the lemon curd a few days before. The meringue is best made on the day you wish to serve it but that takes very little time to prepare. Then all there is to do is to mix the whipped cream into the lemon curd and assemble everything.
2 lemons at room temperature (to add to the 2 reserved from making the candied lemon zest)
225g (8 oz) butter (1 cup, or 2 sticks)
480ml (16 fl oz) double/whipping cream (2 cups)
30 chocolate mini eggs
Piping bag, fitted with a rose nozzle
For the candied lemon zest
(Can be made up to 24 hours ahead)
Peel the zest from two lemons and cut into thin strips. Reserve the lemons for their juice for the lemon curd.
Put the sugar in a pan with 60ml (2 fl oz) (¼ cup) water and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Then add the zest and boil until syrupy, about 2–3 minutes. Drain on parchment paper, then roll in the extra sugar until they are well coated. Leave to dry in a warm place for at least two hours, or over night.
For the meringue
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) (gas mark 3)
Draw a 25cm (10 inch) circle on a sheet of baking parchment. With the drawn side down, place on a baking tray.
Add the egg whites to a bowl and whisk until stiff but before they get to peak stage. Use an electric hand-whisk or a free-standing mixer. Then gradually add the sugar a spoonful at a time while still whisking on the maximum speed until the mixture is stiff and shiny, and stands in peaks.
Blend the vinegar and cornflour/cornstarch together in a small bowl until smooth. Gently stir this into the meringue mixture.
Take half of the meringue and spread onto the baking parchment within the lines of the drawn circle. With the remaining half of meringue fill the piping bag and carefully pipe 10 separate nests equally around the edge of the meringue base.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven, turn the heat down to 150°C (300°F) (gas mark 2) and bake for 1½–2 hours. The pavlova will be a pale cream colour and will come off the paper easily when ready. Begin to check after an hour until it has reached this stage. Turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in the oven to become cold.
For the lemon curd
(The lemon curd can also be made ahead of time and once cooled can be refrigerated, covered with cling film, until needed. It will keep in a refrigerator for up to seven days.)
Squeeze the juice from all 4 lemons. (4 medium lemons should yield 12 tablespoons (¾ cup))
Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Add the egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice to the bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
Gradually add the butter to the pan, stirring until the butter has melted and combined.
Continue stirring until it the mixture starts to thicken. Patience is needed for this as this stage can take up to 20 minutes before it starts to thicken. It will thicken suddenly, so don’t give up! Remove from the heat and leave to cool. It will thicken further as it cools.
Once the lemon curd has cooled completely, pour the cream into a large bowl and whisk until really thick. Then add it to the lemon curd, gently swirling it through. Spoon a little into each of the nests. Then fill the middle of the pavlova with the remainder (you may not need it all).
Finally, place three chocolate mini-eggs in each of the nests and then sprinkle the candied zest in the middle of the pavlova creating a mound.
This is a true classic cherry madeira cake and a slice is perfect with tea or coffee any time of day. The buttery, light texture has a hint of orange flavour and pieces of cherry are generously spread throughout.
115g (4 oz) plain flour/cake and pastry flour (⅔ cup + 2 tbsp)
170g (6 oz) glacé cherries (1 cup + 1 tbsp)
15cm (6 inch) cake tin, greased and lined
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F (gas mark 3)
First, rinse the cherries under cold water and then dry them. (This prevents them from sinking when baking). Then cut them into quarters.
Zest the orange and squeeze the juice from one half.
Sift the flours together in a bowl and then set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. (A little flour can be added between beating in the eggs to prevent the mixture from curdling.)
Beat the orange zest into the mixture.
Fold in the flours and then the glacé cherries.
Finally, add just enough orange juice to give a dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the tin making a slight hollow in the centre with the back of the spoon.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the middle of the cake. Cover the cake with a sheet of baking parchment if the top starts to brown too quickly.
Remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
This cake can be frozen for up to 3 months, just defrost overnight before serving.
Butter that is at room temperature and not taken straight from the fridge will be softer and just right for creaming.
Always use eggs that are at room temperature. I tend to keep a bowl with half a dozen eggs in on the counter so there are always eggs at room temperature ready to use.
Rice, whole green beans/extra fine whole green beans and tomatoes
Put the chicken in a baking dish.
Measure the soy sauce, honey, dry sherry, ginger and garlic cloves into a jug and whisk to combine. Then pour over the chicken. Turn the chicken in the sauce to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours turning the chicken a couple of times.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas 4).
Remove the chicken from the marinade and place in an ovenproof dish in a single layer. Reserve the marinade. Cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, turn the chicken and baste with some of the reserved marinade. Return to the oven, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the cornflour/cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of water and stir into the reserved marinade. Pour into a small pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low and keep warm.
Serve the chicken with rice, fine green beans and baked tomatoes accompanied with the teriyaki sauce.
This Swiss Trifle is a lovely light dessert for winter using frozen raspberries. Slices of jam-filled Swiss roll, laced with sherry and covered with raspberries, are topped with a creamy custard and whipped cream, then sprinkled with roasted almonds.
85g (3 oz) caster sugar/superfine sugar (⅓ cup plus 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar, sifted
15g (½ oz) flaked almonds (1½ tbsp)
A 2 litre (3½ pint) glass dish (8 cup capacity)
Cut the Swiss roll into 2cm (¾ inch) slices and arrange in the base and slightly up the sides of the glass dish. Drizzle over the sherry.
Put the raspberries and jam in a small pan over a moderate-low heat for 2–3 minutes until the fruit is beginning to soften and the mixture is saucy. Leave for about 5 minutes to cool a little. Then pour the raspberry mixture in an even layer over the sponge.
To make the custard. Pour the milk, 240ml (8 fl oz) (1 cup) of the cream and the vanilla essence into a pan and heat until bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat and leave for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, caster/superfine sugar and cornflour until smooth. Then gradually whisk in the hot milk and cream. Return the custard to the pan, bring to the boil then simmer for 2–3 minutes, whisking constantly, until the custard has thickened. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Pour the custard in an even layer over the raspberries, then chill for 20 minutes, until the custard is just beginning to set.
Pour the remaining cream and sifted icing/confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and lightly whip until it holds soft peaks. Spoon the cream over the custard. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
To toast the almonds. Heat a wide bottomed pan. When it is hot, turn the heat down to low and toss in the almonds. Keep moving them around until they just start to turn golden and you can begin to smell them cooking. Watch them all the time as they can burn very quickly. Leave to cool.
Just before serving the trifle sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.
If you want to make less than 8 servings just use individual glass dishes. Alter the quantity of the ingredients accordingly but follow the same method. When cutting the Swiss roll make the slices as thin as possible. You may not need all the Swiss roll to line the individual glass dishes.
Melt the butter and syrup in a small pan and set to one side while mixing the dry ingredients.
Mix the flour, sugar, oats and soda together in a large bowl. Then stir in the melted butter and syrup.
Divide the mixture into 16 even portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place on the baking sheets spacing well apart. Flatten down a little.
Bake for 15–18 minutes until just golden. Leave on the trays for a couple of minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool.
Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water to melt. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
The biscuits should now have cooled completely. Using a pastry brush, thickly paint the chocolate over half of each biscuit, coating both the top and bottom. Return the biscuits to the wire racks to allow the chocolate to set.
Beat the butter until it is light golden in colour.
Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Beat in the egg yolk along with the vanilla essence/extract.
Then fold in the sifted flour until the mixture is soft and smooth.
Place balls of the mixture, just a bit bigger than 1.5cm (½ inch) in diameter, onto the baking sheets spaced well apart. The mixture should make 32 biscuits. Gently press the balls with a fork to flatten a little.
Bake for 10–12 minutes until they just begin to become lightly golden round the edges. Cool on a wire rack.
This version of the classic sponge is filled and topped with coffee butter icing. In the U.K. this is known as coffee cake but in North America, coffee cake can be any cake meant to accompany a cup of coffee, which is why I called this one a coffee topped sponge.
2 x 18cm/7 inch sandwich tins, base-lined and greased
Preheat the oven to 160C° (325°F) (gas mark 3)
Using a free standing mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until they are creamy and pale yellow in colour.
Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour. (Adding the flour prevents any curdling)
Finally, carefully fold in the rest of the flour until just combined. You want to keep as much air as possible in the mixture.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans and level the tops. Bake towards the top of the oven on the same shelf for 30–35 minutes until firm to the touch. (When pressing a finger gently on top of the cake in the middle it shouldn’t leave a depression)
Leave in the tins for 2 minutes, then carefully remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
Using an all-in-one method in a free standing mixer
The ingredients can be mixed at the same time using a free standing mixer. To make sure you get a good rise add 1½ teaspoons baking powder.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into the mixing bowl. Then add the remaining ingredients and beat for 1 minute.
For coffee buttercream
Beat the butter, then gradually beat in the icing/powdered sugar until light and creamy. (A free standing mixer does this in no time.)
Beat in the coffee essence/extract until it is well mixed in.
Once the sponges are cold, carefully invert one onto a plate and evenly spread half the buttercream over. Then place the other sponge on the top and evenly spread the remaining buttercream over the top of this.
To make a pattern, make straight lines through the buttercream using a fork. Just pull steadily through the surface of the buttercream. Then diagonally pull the fork through at intervals.
For more tips on cake baking, click on my ‘Tips’ section.