Tag Archives: dessert

Cakery Bakery: Cinnamon roll cake

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I finished work on Friday. Not forever, but for long enough. Oh, it was like being let out of school before the long summer holiday, only with several hundred added Braxton Hicks. I bought a newborn car seat, in celebration (by heck do I know how to live). And then I made a cake.

It felt like a conquered mountain in itself, this cake. Baking is rather difficult at present, with a) Henry trying to get his tongue into the egg whites and b) all of this foetus to carry around. And I am generally obsessed with cinnamon rolls, but without a breadmaker can never be bothered to go through with them. Well, have a look at this: cinnamon roll cake, from The Girl Who Ate Everything (still working my way through her website. Still in love). It’s like a giant cinnamon roll, but without any dough palaver. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

It didn’t go entirely smoothly, I admit. It started well: the cake mix is one of those wonderful throw-everything-in-a-bowl-and-press-go types, which always makes me happy. I used my free-standing mixer, but a handheld electric one would work just as well. That part is over and in a baking tin before you can say LITTLE BOY, PLEASE MOVE YOUR FACE AWAY FROM THAT EGG.

Then you prepare what the recipe calls topping, but is more like filling: cinnamon, soft butter, brown sugar and pecans all mixed together. My butter wasn’t quite soft enough, so I prepared the pecans separately, thinking it might be easier to whisk without them (it was). The instructions said to put tablespoonfuls of the filling on top of the cake mix, then use a knife to ‘marble’ it in. Well. My filling spoonfuls sat on top of the cake mix like daubs of cold peanut butter, and clearly weren’t going to marble anywhere at all. I ended up mashing them in any old how. It was messy, and left my cake looking like it had a bad case of acne (especially once I put the pecans on top), but we forged on.

Marbling [mashing]. Before and after.

Marbling [mashing]. Before and after.

Then came the real trouble. In the oven for 25-30 minutes, said the recipe. Which I did. I took the cake out, poked in a knife, and was utterly horrified when a lava-flow of grease came flooding out. I realised it was the butter/sugar solution, partying away on the inside. Who on earth would want to eat a grease cake?! I put it back in for another ten minutes. No grease this time, but lots of raw cake mix. Another ten minutes. And another ten. Thirty-five minutes after the recipe said it would be done, it was done. I wasn’t at all sure it would be edible, by this point.

Thank goodness for cream cheese frosting. The recipe gives instructions for a glaze that looks like a thin form of icing. But cinnamon rolls need cream cheese frosting, yes? It just feels right. I used this recipe, halved. It’s the sort of thing I can happily eat from the bowl, with a spatula. I would eat it on toast. I would probably lick it off a wall, to be honest, but for the time being it was jolly lovely on the cake.

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The verdict, then:

Deliciousness: Do you know, after all that, it was wonderful. Extremely fluffy, gloriously messy and crumbly. I don’t know why it took half an hour longer in the oven than it should’ve done, but it didn’t suffer for it. The filling makes sandy little cinnamon blobs in the middle of every slice, and the frosting and pecans together are lovely.

Complexity: If I can work out the correct oven time, it’s a cinch: measure, mix, dump in a tin. So much easier than proper cinnamon rolls. Now I have an ominous feeling.

Washing-up pile: Two bowls and some cutlery. Nice and easy (not – um – that I actually did the clearing up. Thanks, kitchen wonders!).

Casualties: Here is a life lesson – you don’t want to wipe a ladleful of sugar/butter/cinnamon out of a toddler’s face and hair. Ever. That stuff clings.

Oh gosh, it's not going to come off. Is it?

This was the moment I realised it wasn’t going to come off.

The recipe for cinnamon roll cake is here, and the frosting I used is at the bottom of the page here. Go go go!

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Cakery Bakery: Strawberry cream puff cake

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We made it to May!

I don’t have any maypoles handy, and I’m not keen on the idea of gathering nuts, in May or otherwise. But, do you know, it feels like an awfully long time since I made some cake. It being May and all, we decided to bake something appropriate for sunny weather. THIS MEANS STRAWBERRIES.

I discovered, recently, a great recipe website called The Girl Who Ate Everything. Her chicken taco soup is now one of our evening staples. And today we decided on this: a strawberry cream puff cake. What is a puff cake, I wondered? Even now I’m not really sure what the answer is. The base is somewhere between eggy pudding, souffle and pastry. It’s topped with a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting, and lots of strawberries. And it tastes amazing. This is all you need to know.

The cream puff layer comes first. You melt butter, water and sugar in a saucepan, bring it to the boil, then dump in a load of flour and stir like billy-oh. Boiling sugar always makes me nervous, and so does adding flour to anything on the stove, but it turned into a kind of play-doh mixture without any explosions. Three eggs and a whisk later, the mixture is done. You pour it into a springform tin and it goes in the oven. After 25 minutes, the thing is golden brown, gigantic and making a valiant effort to climb out of the tin. You stab it several times with a toothpick to squash any of that nonsense, and then put it back in for a bit. Done, and done. I do love a cake that’s supposed to sink in the middle. It makes a nice change.

The cream cheese topping is cream cheese, icing sugar, heavy whipping cream (I substituted double cream, Englishers) and a bit of vanilla. The recipe also says orange zest, but I didn’t have any ready-made and couldn’t be bothered to grate some, so I missed it out. I don’t think it suffered without it. That goes on the cooled cream puff base – do wait till it’s properly cool, or it’ll melt horribly – with chopped strawberries on top of that. Like the Girl Who Ate Everything, I chopped my strawberries while the base was cooking, and put them in the fridge with a bit of sugar until they were needed. They sat in their own syrup, and were lovely.

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Henry spent a good half hour afterwards licking the beaters and trying to clean out the cream cheese bowl with a spatula. I’ll remember that for later.

I think possibly I undercooked my base a little – it was definitely more eggy pudding than pastry at the bottom – but it was delicious anyway. The cream cheese topping is wonderful (you can ask Henry’s vest). And strawberries, well. It felt like the perfect end to a sunshiny day.

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Deliciousness: Make it now. Oh alright, finish reading this first. THEN go make it.

Complexity: Not only was it very easy – the crumply base is the sort of thing that is supposed to look artfully dishevelled, so it’s hard to get wrong – but the ingredients were primarily items I already had. Which is always a nice bonus.

Washing-up pile: You guys, I haven’t washed up in two days. I have no idea how many of those eighty-seven items are baking related.

Casualties: Unless you can overdose on cheesy cream, I think we’ll all be fine.

The recipe for this cake is here. Go go go!

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Cakery Bakery: Mince pie pinwheels

This afternoon I took a big, deep breath. Because we’re almost there: Tim’s last day of work before the Christmas break was today, and we have a quiet, lovely weekend planned before next week’s festivities. This evening, with Henry in bed and Tim out with friends, I thought I’d watch You’ve Got Mail and bake. So I made these.

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(courtesy of Becky from the Butterfly Buns blog, who inherited it from Lorraine Pascale: see her step-by-step here.)

If you stop and think about it, this is the most insanely amazing Christmas idea since The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love mince pies, but haven’t yet dared to make any, mostly because mince pie pastry is a delicate art. It’s easy to make a bad mince pie. But it’s impossible to make a bad one of these.

There are two ingredients: a jar of mincemeat and store-bought puff pastry. You can buy it ready-rolled or roll it yourself; either’s fine. Once the pastry is rolled out, cut out squares of roughly 10 x 10 cm with a sharp knife or pastry cutter. I guestimated, and ended up with squares of varying sizes, but it doesn’t matter.

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Once you have your squares, make a 3-4cm cut diagonally from each corner into the middle. It looks a bit like this.

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Apologies for horrendous photographs. The blog does not forgive late night baking. It thinks I should get more sleep.

Then put a spoonful of mincemeat in the middle of each square. Take one corner of each side and fold it into the middle, making a kind of pinwheel effect. By which I mean, this:

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I found that my pastry corners didn’t want to stick on top of each other, so I brushed the ends of each with a little beaten egg, and that did the trick. Finally, cut out little stars from your leftover pastry, and stick on top with more beaten egg.

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The recipe recommends brushing the whole thing with egg before it goes in the oven, but I tend to prefer my puff pastry lighter and less crispy, so I didn’t. After fifteen minutes in the oven at 200C, and after a sprinkling of icing sugar, they looked wonderful.

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Be aware that mincemeat welds itself to baking trays like a raisiny barnacle, so make sure to use baking paper to save yourself flying pastry crumbs.

And that is IT. My block of puff pastry made a great stacked plateful, and it hardly took any time at all. Wish I’d known about these before Christmas party season – much easier than baking a cake, and beautifully festive. The only question is whether I can get through all thirty before Timothy gets home.

Deliciousness: Oh, lovely. Light and quickly snaffled. They are best warm, I think, but remember that mincemeat comes out of the oven as hot as the sun, so wait a little while. Oh my GOODNESS would they be intense with clotted cream.

Complexity: As Becky says, this isn’t baking but assembly. Would be great to make with kids on a Christmassy Saturday afternoon.

Washing-up pile: A rolling pin, a knife and a baking tray. I can get behind that.

Casualties: My REM cycle. Again.

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Christmas Cakery Bakery: the Hummingbird Bakery’s sweet and salty chocolate cake

Whoa, wait, hang on a minute. Christmas is in how many days? I haven’t done a thing.

Well, we have a Christmas tree, though it’s getting more undressed by the day (saucy). And I have half a knitted garland for my living room. But no presents and no prep. I need to get a grip. Shake some jingle bells, that sort of thing. And also, make some Christmas food, because nothing says festivity to me like festive baking. I wanted to get stuck in to biscuits and pies and Christmas morning muffins, but first we had a party to attend. Party people want to eat chocolate cake, and that is the truth.

We decided on the Hummingbird Bakery’s sweet and salty chocolate cake, in a moment of heady abandon. If the holidays mean decadence, this is the cake for the season: three layers of chocolate sponge, sandwiched with salty caramel and caramel chocolate frosting. It’s a tiny bit obscene. When I got home from the supermarket I put all of the ingredients on the table and we stood and gaped for a while. How much sugar? How much cream?

Oh, go on then.

Start with salty caramel. You combine syrup, sugar and water, boil it for ten minutes, combine it with lightly salted double cream and sour cream (which has also been boiled) and stir like billy-oh. That’s stage one, and the caramel it makes is delicious. I’m never sure how I feel about salted caramel, by the way, but this isn’t off-puttingly salty, so you’ll be fine.

Then repeat the process exactly, but without the salt, and end up with another bowl of creamy caramel that becomes the frosting, once you’ve added half a ton of chocolate and some butter. You’re supposed to whip and whip with a whisk until the mixture cools. After the chocolate, the frosting turned thick and spatula-friendly, which was exciting. Then after the butter, it suddenly became thinner and silky-smooth. I hoped it would solidify in the fridge (it didn’t), but perhaps it’s supposed to be splashier.

That’s stage two. Stage three is the sponge. And this was the exciting bit, because I got to break in the ancient (let’s say ‘vintage’, that’s trendier) Kenwood mixer I just inherited from a very lovely friend. It’s a thing of beauty. I can’t stop looking at it. And I cannot believe that it’s possible to make up a cake mix with no input from me or my bicep whatsoever. What is this?!

Twenty-five minutes later, and after I’d decided to get rid of one of the cake layers to save time, we were on to the assembly. I was right: the frosting was a pain to keep on, especially sliding over the caramel. But it looked rather spiffy, all the same.

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The verdict, then -

Deliciousness: Do you know, we thought it was only alright. Don’t get me wrong, it was a delicious chocolate cake. The caramel frosting went all fudgy, the sponge was soft, and it was beautifully rich. But we couldn’t taste the caramel, salty or no, which meant that after all that effort we’d just made… a chocolate cake. A very good chocolate cake. But not a life-changer.

Complexity: The most difficult bit was keeping the frosting on the cake. The rest of it was a little more time-consuming than your average effort, but not hard.

Washing-up pile: Approximately twenty-seven. Thousand. Maybe more. It was a lot.

Casualties: Distracted by frosting at a crucial point, Timothy stubbed his toe on the wall halfway through the afternoon. It wasn’t all bad. In throes of agony on the sofa, he asked (through the medium of song) for a spoonful of the caramel stuff as his last request. I was sympathetic, and complied.

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Cakery Bakery: the celebratory Swedish tea-ring

Hey, you: want to make a giant cinnamon pastry? It doesn’t have to be your birthday.

Actually, the Swedish tea-ring isn’t exactly a pastry – it’s too bready for that. Otherwise, though, it really is an oversized circular cinnamon roll that will bring you joy, especially when you bury your face in it (recommended). Shall we?

A note to begin: this is a LOT easier if you have a breadmaker. If you do, skip ahead to the bit in red, and feel good about your life. I don’t, so I made this by hand.

Here’s the ingredients list.

150g strong white flour
1 tsp sugar (any type)
8g dried yeast
250ml warm milk
300g plain flour
1tsp salt
45g melted butter
1 egg
50g soft brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Start with a bowl. Don’t all baking efforts start with a bowl? And in it go your strong white flour, sugar, dried yeast and warm milk. Mix together and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes, until the yeast has reacted and the mixture’s gone bubbly. It’ll smell a bit like the bottom of your laundry bin. Press on: it’ll be ok.

Then put in the plain flour, salt, 50g of the melted butter and egg. Mix together into a wet dough and turn out onto a floured board.

I knew absolutely nothing about kneading bread dough: for my first attempt I did this hilarious flinging and folding thing that did not work in the slightest, and got hideous gobs of stickiness all over my hands and everything else. Timothy cleared it up, looking like he wished he’d asked for a Betty Crocker mix instead. For the second go, I found this, and copied it exactly. It worked a lot better. In the end I kneaded the dough for about 20 mins. The indicator, says the internet, is when you pinch it and it feels as firm as an earlobe. I had to pinch my earlobe and then the dough several times for comparison, but got there in the end.

Come in here if you have a breadmaker. You lucky, lucky duck. 

Cover the dough with a plastic freezer bag and a tea towel, and let rise in a warmed oven for 3o minutes, or at room temperature for 2 hours. It should end up being twice its original size. Then roll out on a floured surface until it’s about 9 x 12 inches, and rectangular.

Brush 15g melted butter over the dough, then sprinkle over 50g soft brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Roll it up along the long edge to make something like a long, thin swiss roll. Arrange it in a circle on a greased baking tray, with the seam underneath, and pinch the edges together. Then – artistic! – using scissors, snip along the top of the roll at an angle, all the way round. It looks a bit like this.

All rise.

Let it rise again under a plastic freezer bag and a tea towel, for another 30 minutes in a warmed oven or 2 hours at room temperature. It needs to rise a lot, bread dough, doesn’t it? I ended up singing that Blue song to it through the oven door. If I’d had a harmonica, you know I would’ve used it.

Finally, bake at 190°C or 370°F for 20-25 minutes.

You’re supposed to decorate with glace icing and cherries. This is Timothy we’re talking about, so I used chocolate beads. The glace icing made a puddle in the hole in the middle, which he greatly enjoyed clearing out afterwards. Bet it’d be amazing with cream cheese frosting. Most things are.

The verdict, then:

Deliciousness: absolutely lovely when fresh from the oven. It doesn’t keep terribly well – the breadiness of it tends to harden overnight – so plan to eat a lot.

Complexity: The most complicated bit was kneading the dough, so if you’re comfortable with that, or have a breadmaker to be comfortable for you, then it’s really not hard.

Washing-up pile: Honestly, goodness knows. Many mixing bowls, that’s for sure.

Casualties: My kitchen counter. It may seem obvious to you that it’s not a good idea to fling very wet dough around with gay abandon, but just in case it’s not: don’t.

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The Great Cakery Bakery Pumpkin Quest: Classic pumpkin pie

Yes, I went there again. I had a tin of pumpkin left, and felt there were still pie mountains to climb. Reach for the stars, you guys. Reach for the pumpkin stars.

On the advice of several astute commenters, I used the recipe on the back of the Libby’s canned pumpkin tin, and felt that this was probably the quintessential pumpkin pie recipe. For the pastry, bored of my usual dense shortcrust effort, I used a recipe favoured by my sister-in-law, who has conquered many a pie mountain already. I believe this comes from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook originally. I don’t know who Fannie is, but by heck, she was all over that pastry.

First, no butter. Yes, no butter at all! Julia Child, put that cow away.

Instead, mix flour and salt and add vegetable shortening in greasy spoonfuls. I found vegetable shortening quite easily in Tesco. It comes in a cardboard box and looks almost exactly, off-puttingly, like hair wax. Press on: it will be worth it.

You mix the shortening into the flour using two knives, dragging them in opposite directions in the bowl. Once you’ve got a knobbly, crumby consistency, you add iced water in tablespoonfuls and mix with a fork, until the pastry starts to come together. It has a resilient, elastic texture that makes rolling out and flipping into the pie dish much easier than usual. Fearful of another pastry collapse, I didn’t trim the sides – and I didn’t blind bake the pastry case either, because I wanted to see what would happen without it.

The filling, then, goes directly on top of the uncooked pastry shell. It’s a mixture of pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar and spice and all things nice. I started to worry about the liquidy filling dripping through the soft pastry, but it held together nicely. Forty minutes later, we had this.

My untrimmed sides looked a bit sloppy, and the filling was wobblier than the last pie. The base was soft and slightly soggy – you’d need to blind bake if you wanted a firm-bottomed pie, I think (ooh-er). I fall somewhere in the middle: as it was, it was a little too soggy, but I do prefer the pastry on the softer side. Next time I think I’d blind bake for five or ten minutes instead of the usual fifteen, and see if that worked as a compromise.

Altogether, though, this was a huge improvement. Well-spiced. Flaky-pastried. Quickly eaten. Even Henry kept it in his mouth instead of using it to decorate his cardigan. Get out the stars and stripes! We made it.

A SUDDEN THOUGHT: Chaps, do you think this would go well with custard? Oh gosh. What a possibility.

Deliciousness: It’s gone. Enough said.

Complexity: Surprisingly, wonderfully easy. This pastry recipe is a game-changer. Just need to work out how to neaten it up a bit.

Washing-up pile: Um, it was late when I finished. Judging by how it felt at 7am this morning, I’m going to say… ninety-two?

Casualties: A good night’s sleep. I embarked on this project after 9pm, when all good projects are begun. ‘Scuse me, I think an afternoon nap is on the cards.

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The Great Cakery Bakery Pumpkin Quest: Hummingbird Bakery pumpkin cheesecake

There’s a nip in the air today. An icy draught has been blowing up from the bottom of the stairs, freezing our feet, and it smells like woodsmoke. Little boys like nothing better than running around and yelling on autumn days like this, so we’ll be off to the park in a few minutes. Just as soon as we’ve finished making pumpkin cheesecake.

Because making pumpkin anything should be an autumn staple, and I wish it were done more often here. As it was, I had to stake out Waitrose yesterday evening for canned pumpkin – the only place in Reading that sells it, as far as I’m aware – and screamed when they had six whole cans. I bought three. You have to be prepared.

This is a Hummingbird Bakery recipe, and I was intrigued as soon as I found it: cheesecake? Really? I’ve never attempted baked cheesecake before – giving the cheesecake a water bath has always seemed intimidating, not to mention overly personal. But I love both cheesecake and pumpkin flavoured things, so was ready to take the leap.

The base is buttery, cinnamony, nutmeggy digestive biscuits. You crush them either in a blender or with brute force (I chose the latter), mix in the butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, and press into a springform tin. That goes into the fridge for half an hour to cool. Meanwhile, you preheat the oven and get on with the glorious cheesy topping.

The topping is cream cheese, sugar, a surprisingly large dumping of cinnamon, three eggs (which I suppose necessitate the baking), and finally the canned pumpkin. I’m used to seeing canned pumpkin filling pies or colouring muffins, so had forgotten that without any of this deliciousness it is bright orange and decidedly unappetising. After a good whisk, though, the mixture is creamy and lightly coloured, and looks yummy.

Now for the water bath. I wrapped foil around the base of the cake tin and got out my only roasting tin to fill with water. Here’s where I ran into trouble: first, my roasting tin wasn’t tall enough for the water to cover all of the cake tin. Then, too late, I realised that I was pouring water above the height of the protective foil, making it mostly useless. In these situations, the only thing to do is have some chocolate to steady the nerves and press ahead, both of which I did.

It stays in the oven for 35-40 minutes, then comes out, somehow without sloshing hot, suspiciously cloudy water all over the floor. It needs to set in the fridge, say the lovely Hummingbird Bakery people, for at least a few hours, ‘or preferably overnight’. Psh. No one waits overnight for dessert, surely. 

I’m glad we didn’t, because no amount of fridge time would’ve fixed it. Oh, my loves, what a waste of brilliance this business was. I could go on, but perhaps all I need to tell you is this: the water got in. Hence, the soggy biscuit base. Hence, the strange wobbliness of it. Hence the disturbingly damp sheen on the top. 

The shame of it is that it tastes divine – the pumpkin is just right, neither too overpowering nor too faint. The nutmeg and cinnamon work wonderfully together. But with the best will in the world, not even ten tons of delicately spiced pumpkin can save soggy biscuit.

Suspiciously cloudy water. I should’ve known.

Do you want to see a photo? Ok, here you go. You asked for it. 

This was such a near miss that I’m seriously tempted to try again tomorrow – the recipe used half the butter, half the biscuits and half a can of pumpkin. This does raise the question of what on earth we’d do with an entire second cheesecake. Any takers within walking distance? I’m not kidding.

Deliciousness: leaving the wateriness aside, it was lovely. Tragically lovely. Oh pumpkin cheesecake, we were like ships in the night. 

Complexity: WATER BATH. WATER BATH. WAAAAATEEEER BAAAAAAATTHHHHH. 

Washing-up pile: two mixing bowls and a tangle of utensils. 

Casualties: The cheesecake. Death by drowning, said the coroner. 

 

 

 

 

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Cakery Bakery: the Whisk Kid’s Rainbow Cake

If there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to baking, it’s that you should never bake something for the first time if it absolutely has to go right. Well, you can, if you want. And if you’re an instinctive, super-confident baker you could probably do it and have it go marvellously. Not me, though. I need to do some reconnaissance. When I fly by the seat of my pants, I inevitably burn my pants.

Thus it was that I decided to spend some time this week making a rainbow cake (one of my possibilities for Henry’s birthday in a couple of weeks). I wanted to see whether it really would look as good as it did on TV, or whether that was just a bit of Martha magic. And it’s by far the most complicated, lengthy cake I’ve ever attempted, so I didn’t want to try it for the first time while also trying to hang streamers.

I used the recipe here for the cake. It’s a simple enough sponge – though it only includes egg whites, rather than the whole egg – to the extent that you could probably substitute a packet mix if you were sure of your quantities.

First, find some identical cake tins. It really helps if you have as many of the same size as possible, but they have to be identical. I had two (argh). Grease the whole tin very thoroughly and line the bottom with baking paper. If you find this task as hideously annoying as I do, here’s the best way I’ve found to do it: cut a square of roughly the right size, and press it into the bottom of the greased tin. Score around the edges with your fingernail, and take out the paper. You should still be able to see where you scored, and cut it to exactly the right shape.

As far as the cake mix goes, you combine dry ingredients in a smaller bowl, then cream butter and sugar in the largest bowl you’ve got. Weigh your large bowl before you put anything in it. I’ll explain later, honest. The recipe asks for a freestanding mixer with paddle attachment (of course it does), but in the absence of this swanky equipment I just used my handheld electric mixer. It worked fine. Once the butter and sugar are combined, add the egg whites in slowly, mixing all the time, then the dry ingredients and milk. Your arm will really be aching by this point, but keep on – everyone loves an over-developed bicep.

Then comes the fun part. Divide the mixure into six equal parts. The easiest way to do this is to weigh it out (that’s why you weighed your bowl earlier, so you can subtract it from the total weight with the mixture). Put each mix into a separate bowl, and add food colouring to each one.

Now, a note on food colouring (I told you this was an odyssey). The only colouring you can get in any decent-sized UK supermarket is the liquid stuff in bottles. Since this was just a test, I got it, but it wasn’t ideal. It’s much paler than the gel or paste, and seriously liquifies your cake mix. For proper, bright cake colours, you need something like this, which you can find in specialist cooking shops or online. I’ll pick some up if I end up doing this for Henry. You can never go wrong with food colouring in the house.

Where are we now? Right, cake baking. Each one goes in for about 10-15 minutes (depending on how watery the food colouring made your cake mix). If you’ve only got two tins, like me, you have to wait until each one has cooled, hammer it out of the tin, cut more baking paper, get out more grease, and do the whole thing over again. It took f o r e v e r. We even broke for lunch. But eventually, all six layers were done, and I could get out my cake stand. Woo!

Now for the icing. Martha recommends buttercream icing, but I hate icing. Cream cheese frosting, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of obesity. I followed my sister-in-law, who’s done something similar, and adapted this recipe by substituting some of the cream cheese with butter. The quantities in the Not So Humble recipe should give you enough to ice between the layers and then all around the cake.

I was also supposed to slice the top off each cake layer before putting it down. But I’m a big chickeny chicken, and have never dared do this yet. So I had a little mushroom-shaped cake instead of one with a flat top. Since by this point I had forgotten my own name and what the sky looked like, I didn’t mind.

In the end, I only used five of my six layers. Partly because I ran out of icing, and partly because the mossy green looked the most unpleasant. I spread frosting between each layer, then spread a very thin layer all over the cake, to stop crumbs getting caught in the icing on top. Following instructions, I put it in the fridge to set for thirty minutes, along with the rest of my icing.

[Break for exhausted slump on sofa.]

Finally! The last layer of icing, some brightly coloured chocolate beads, and some fridge time. When it comes to icing, my personal motto is ‘If In Doubt, Cover With Something Glittery’. I used a plastic spatula for the first layering and then a metal knife to go over it, but it still wasn’t terribly swanky. Until the chocolate beads! You see what happened there?!

Cutting into it was the most exciting thing ever. The food colouring is definitely not quite right: the red is orange, and the blue is smurf-coloured, for some reason known only to Dr Oetker. But the sponge is soft and damp, and the cream cheese is to die for.

The verdict, then:

Deliciousness: Yummmm. Be warned: with a cake this tall, it’s impossible to cut small slices. I’ve only had one, and I feel a bit sick. In the best tradition of birthday cakes, of course.

Complexity: This was a long, long job. The frosting went surprisingly well and I didn’t have any cake disasters, but ohhh, my aching self once it was all done. I loved it, though. Martha, you little baking wizard, you.

Washing-up pile: I honestly haven’t dared count. I used all my mixing bowls, two cake tins, six colouring bowls, both electric whisks and almost every utensil in the house. Is this the point to confess that Timothy usually does my baking washing-up, and he’s not here? Ug. (He also does almost all of the eating, so I think it’s a fair trade.)

Casualties: my Wednesday. Which will never be seen again.

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Cakery Bakery: frozen peanut butter chocolate pie

Our house has been shamefully dessert-free for ages. We are supposed to be dieting (ha).

Well, no more of that nonsense.

I found a recipe for a frozen peanut butter chocolate pie, and only had to mention it once for Timothy to make a strangled noise of excitement. Peanut butter and Timothy have a special and appreciative relationship. It’s a curious thing, this: essentially a peanut butter cheesecake sitting on a layer of biscuit and another of chocolate ganache.

The recipe asks for a graham cracker crust, and I’m yet to find graham crackers or anything like them here, so I used crushed chocolate digestive biscuits mixed up with a bit of butter to bind it together. Then you melt six ounces of chocolate chips – or just plain chocolate – with a bit of double cream, and spoon it onto the biscuit base. Pause to lick the spatula. And now move on.

The peanut butter topping is cream, peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla essence and brown sugar. This all needs whipping with a hand-held mixer until stiff peaks form. And it really does whip up properly, too, even though it must only be half double cream. It looks like butter icing. When it’s done, it goes on the chocolate base, and the whole thing goes in the freezer.

The recipe says to freeze the pie overnight, and then to soften a little before eating. We were too impatient for that, and left it in for about four hours. It was perfectly sliceable, so that’s why you should never wait to eat dessert overnight. To finish, drizzle with more melted chocolate, chocolate chips and crushed peanuts.

It’s a funny thing, this. The tangy cream cheese came through more than expected, and makes an odd pairing with the smooth peanut butter. Not unpleasant, but I think next time I’d add more sugar. Still, it was rich and sweet, and the peanut butter and chocolate tasted marvellous together with the salty-sweetness of the peanuts and chocolate chips on top. We’re not at all sorry to have to eat it all between us.

Deliciousness: you have to eat it in small slices, but with more sugar this would be a winner.

Complexity: Mixing and freezing – not at all difficult. Frozen desserts are great when you have company, because they tend to look more professional than they really are.

Washing-up pile: eight. All sticky, though I’m pretty sure Timothy will volunteer to lick out the bowls.

Casualties: our diet. Clearly.

Recipe for frozen peanut butter chocolate pie courtesy of A Beautiful Mess, here. Let me know what you think! 

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