cooling on the rack

Swirly chocolate loaf cake thing

“Never judge a book by it’s cover” is what my mum used to say. Well, that’s fine. But I always judge a cake by its cover! If it looks fancy and interesting I’m more likely to tuck into it.

I had spotted a recipe somewhere and thought it looked too good to pass. It was golden swirls of cakey goodness with layers of chocolate oozing through. Sounds delicious. And while it looks pretty good, there wasn’t taste to it. More bready, than cakey.

Unfortunately I have lost the recipie which is out these on the internet somewhere. If you find it, let me know so I can correct the likely mistakes I am about to make.

So, I started by making the standard dough and let it rise. Meanwhile, melt some dark chocolate over a bain marie.

Rising dough

  Rising dough

Then roll it out into a rough rectangle, around 5mm thick and spread out the melted chocolate. Try to get the choc to the edges of the dough.

Spread the choc out

Spread the choc out

The recipe mentioned a sprinkle of choc-chips, but the ones I had were not Vegan. I didn’t want Fern to miss out so I left one half of the bread unsprinkled.

Vegan friendly spreading

Vegan friendly spreading

Next up, you need to roll the dough into a sausage shape by rolling along the longest edge. Then cut the roll in half length ways.

cut the roll length ways

cut the roll length ways

Then take the two long parts, connect at one end and twist up and over each other, making a simple plait.

up and over does it

up and over does it

Looking good. Now put into a greased loaf tin and place in the oven for around 30 minutes @ 200C (this is a complete guess – it was so long ago I have no idea what temp or timing – again, if I could just find that recipe!)

cooling on the rack

cooling on the rack

As you can see below, this was more of a bread, than a cake. There is no hiding it. I was expecting it to be more like a pain au chocolat, but this wasn’t going to happen with bread dough. Still, it had chocolate in it so it satisfied the senses in a weird way.

bread not cake :-(

bread not cake 😦

If you have any suggestions or comments on how I could improve this please get in touch. Or maybe you have the recipe or have spotted it somewhere!?!?

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Carrot Cake

I love Carrot Cake with or without iced topping, so I raided the kitchen draws again to find my Mum’s old recipe – guess what, I couldn’t find it so again I have used a mix of memory and internet ideas. This recipe has black treacle added (a personal favourite), making it a tray bake rather than a fluffy sandwich cake bake.

Apart from the time it takes to grate the carrots, this bake is relatively quick as basically all you need to do is mix everything together and pop it in the oven!



Fruity Marmalade Cake

I found the recipe for this cake on the website of the Vegan Society and thought I’d give it a try. I haven’t made a fruit cake for the Crusaders before and the addition of marmalade made it sound more interesting.  Also, it’s winter time (about three weeks before Christmas), so I thought a fruit cake with some spices in it would be nice and seasonal.

First of all I had to invest in some new ingredients and had to find the various spices to go into the cake as well as the soya flour. It seems that this is the wrong time of year to look for Nutmeg and Cinnamon (when said together they sound like the latest fashion in baby names!) as perhaps people are buying them to use in Christmas cakes, but I finally tracked down a supply in the John Lewis food hall. The soya flour came from Holland & Barrett where they have a good selection of “alternative” ingredients .

I set out my kitchen systematically with the dry ingredients on one side of the bowl and the wet ingredients on the other. All the ingredients combined very well but I thought overall the final mixture was heavy and a bit stodgy. This time, I had no worries about pouring the mixture into the baking tin – in fact it needed a bit more help than gravity to get it off the spoon!

Once in the tin I put it on the middle shelf of the oven and left well alone for an hour and 5 minutes or so. Then I tried the texture with a cocktail stick and it came out clean. However, I felt a little sceptical about the cake being cooked through and (perhaps this was my undoing), I returned it to the oven for a bit more baking as the recipe said it needed between 1 ½ to 2 hours.

In the meantime, the oven was puffing out a fabulous spicy fragrance that put me in mind of the gentlemen’s counter in an old fashioned department store!

I retrieved the cake from the oven after about one hour and 40 minutes and decided that it was definitely cooked as the edges looked somewhat darker than the middle. It also felt rather heavy – which I put down to the amount of fruit in it.

The next day I took the cake into the office for tasting by the crusaders. On removal from the cake tin I was disappointed to see that it hadn’t risen very much and – as I cut into it – that the sides were much harder than the middle. The middle of the cake was rather crumbly but overall the flavour was good, with the blend of spices not being too overpowering. Every mouthful tasted slightly different, with the marmalade giving it a bit of a twist. Although it had plenty of fruit I thought it wasn’t over-sweet.

photo 5

Good flavour but rather crumbly


French Apple Tart

I used the BBC recipe,  I was inspired to try making this classic French Apple tart, while walking past a particularly good selection of cakes in a shop window, thought it looks really good, I may try making one.

I was in two minds weather to make the pastry or use the ready-made variety, I decided ready-made was the path to take, I used jusrol ready-made puff pastry,  it was nice n easy to roll out and cover the flan tin, I then blind baked it with some ceramic beads in place, to help avoid a soggy bottom syndrome.

The slicing of the apples was the longest part of the process, but the end result does look impressive. I spread the apple compote over the base of cooled blind baked flan case , then covered the top of the apple compote with the sliced apple pieces, after a few fiddle moments it was finished. the recipe use some cubes of butter on the top, well I did and some more. I did use rather a lot of butter on the top and then baked it for the prescribed time. I must say it was surprising it made it to the office for my colleagues to try, it did look very tasty as it came out of the oven.

Dozen Burnt Tarts

Pastel de nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Ok, I love these little tarts. They are bite size, not too sweet and a tasty pastry desert. Great with a cup of tea. Of course.

Portuguese Custard Tarts

…How they should look

There is a tiny cafe on my road that sells these. I got chatting to the owner and he said he sells more of these than anything else and that they are made fresh every day by a local baker. Well, I need to meet this baker as these little things aint easy. This blog is all about our experiences baking – the highs and the lows. This is most definitely my low.

Let me explain. As usual I tried to be a bit clever by following separate recipes and trying to combine the best of both. I found one recipe that included an awesome sounding homemade pastry recipe that I thought would make my tarts light, flakey and tasty. I then found another recipe that would make my filling tasty and bam! – I would blow the minds of my fellow cake crusaders. 

First, the custard. I followed a recipe from here which is a pretty standard custard recipe. It was the first ever time I had made custard so was not sure exactly when to take it off the heat. It turns out I left it on a little too long and it ended up being a little thick.

Making custard

Making custard

However, you only notice this after it is removed from the pan and has started to cool slightly. Note to self; in future take it off the heat a little early. As per the instructions, transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film to avoid a skin forming.

Keeping the custard skin at bay

Keep the custard skin at bay 

Next was the pastry. For this I followed the recipe here, which seemed pretty authentic. I liked the idea of the buttery pasty with the layers building up. The recipe explains how to make your own pastry, but I was starting with shop-bought. What I did like was the idea of layering up with butter inside, but little did I know the shop-bought stuff already has this done to it. I probably ruined my pastry by messing with it too much. Anyway, I had a go

Butter brushed pastry

Butter brushed pastry

Folded pastry

Folded pastry

Then rolled the pastry into a log and slice into individual portions ready for the baking tray.

Rolled pastry

Rolled pastry 

Slice the pastry

Slicing the pastry

Transfer these to the baking tray and push down into the dimples, forming the tart shape. You may notice from my tray that the dimples are quite shallow, which I think is a mistake. Deeper muffin-type tray dimples would have stopped the tart edges cooking before the custard.

Pushing pastry into tin

Pushing pastry into tin

Bake these according to the original recipe and see how you go. Mine looked…unpalatable. Needless the say the crusaders didn’t go back for seconds, but kudos to Tricia and Steve for at least trying (Fern, had a good excuse of being Vegan) 😦

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Close up

Close up of a sorry tart

Dozen Burnt Tarts

a dozen burnt tarts 

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t mix recipes – stick to one
  2. Don’t mess with shop-bought pastry. Just use it straight from the packet.
  3. Experiment with custard and test when you should remove from the heat.
  4. Use muffin-deep baking trays

Have you baked these? What are your tricks and tips? Got any other recommendations? Let me know and comment below.

Classic Bread Pudding

Time for a change of bake texture I thought, so Bread Pudding it was, although after announcing to the Cake Crusaders that I would be making said bake, I realised I hadn’t baked BP in over 10 years!

After scrummaging through my kitchen draws and bake books to find a piece of paper from over 20 years ago with my Mum’s BP method and recipe scribbled upon it, and having no luck, I called my Mum for her recollection of core ingredients, weights and method. My Mum advised that she hadn’t baked BP in years and would have to bake one herself to remember what to do, and what to include. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to wait for my Mum to bake, so I checked out online recipes, numerous versions were found so with a bit of this one and that, I came up with the attached recipe and method. You will see from my recipe, this PB has a very large tablespoon of Black Treacle, which doesn’t appear to be the norm in many recipes I reviewed, however my memories are of this ingredient being key to a good texture and colour, and I must say, I was soooooo pleased I included it within my bake.


Preheat over to 180c/350/gas 4

I used an oblong glass baking dish around 12 x 9 x 2 inches, unlined. As long as the dish is big enough for your mixture, I don’t think you need to worry too much about the exact measurements of your dish.

Ripping the bread into small chunks, place them into a large mixing bowl and pour over the milk – leave to soak for 30 minutes.


Melt the butter, and Demerara sugar together and mix into the bread along with the spices and pre beaten eggs.

Add the fruit and orange rind and mix until all ingredients are bound together – mixture should have a running consistency.


Pour into your baking dish and bake for one hour 15/30 minutes.

Leave to cool in baking dish whilst standing on a wire tray, sprinkling the white sugar over the top, around half way through the cooling process.

Enjoy warm or cold (with or without Custard!)

Cascuits and Chocolate Fudge Cake

Everyone has a recipe they want to share and I wanted to share my mum’s fabulous recipe for fairy cakes. It’s so classic I feel it deserves a bit of franglicising: classique!

However, as I’m now vegan I knew I would have to make some substitutions. Unfortunately, these did not work, the fairy cakes failed to rise properly and I was left with 20 “somethings” that, when they came out of the oven, looked like a classic disaster rather than classique fairy cakes.

I was so embarrassed I didn’t want to show them to the other crusaders but Michael persuaded me, so the next day I brought them in.

Cascuits in tin

Cascuits in tin

These spawn of the baking devil looked and tasted like a cross between a cake and a biscuit. Michael suggested calling them “cascuits” which I think is so clever that I just have to share it (at least my flat fairy cakes are encouraging the use of new words in the English language!).

Well I had to go back to the drawing board and on the way decided that I would make a proper vegan cake instead of an apology for one.

There was a recipe for chocolate fudge cake on the Vegan Village website and I decided to try this, as it seemed quite straightforward. Regrettably, any recipe with more than half a dozen steps still fills me with fear.

The recipe was simple to prepare but, as I was combining the ingredients together, I felt that the mixture was very runny. Half a pint of soya milk seemed like a lot. However, as I had resolved to follow the recipe to the letter, I had to trust that it would come good. I felt anxious that my baking tin might spring a leak and that the bottom of my oven would end up covered with burned on chocolate cake mix. So I said a quick prayer as I lined the tin, hoping that Sainsbury’s baking parchment would prove to be as watertight as the walls of the Channel tunnel. In fact, the recipe recognises that the mix is quite liquid and says you have to pour the mixture into the tin. Once poured, I tried the mixture on the end of a teaspoon and it was yummy.

Steve often posts about delicious smells coming from the oven while his cakes are baking and this seemed to be something I’d been missing in my bakes so far. However, this time the cake did not disappoint. As half an hour passed and then an hour my kitchen began to smell more and more lusciously of chocolate. I couldn’t wait to get the cake out of the oven!

Once the cake had cooled, I had the task of covering it with melted dairy free chocolate. I used Moo-free chocolate, which was easy to break up and melted down smoothly. There were no lumps and the chocolate did not separate or spoil. Altogether I was very pleased with it and would definitely use Moo-free again as a chocolate topping.

Finally, I took the cake into the office where it was well received by my fellow crusaders. They all agreed that it smelled fantastic as well as tasting good. In spite of the runny cake mix, the texture was excellent. I would definitely make this chocolate fudge cake again!

(PS. The writers who posted the recipe on Vegan Village commented that they didn’t need to cook the cake for as long as suggested. I found that it took about 1 ½ hours in the oven in total.)


Coffee & Walnut cake

I like cake, I like Coffee, I like walnuts.
so when I came across this recipe in the Mary Berry’s book of classic cakes, I thought that sounds perfect, knowing I already had the ingredients, I wandered off to the kitchen and reached for the bake ware

Following the recipe was easy enough.

I’ve only one cake tin, (must mention this to sweetness, as Christmas is coming) so instead of splitting the mixture into two sponge tins as suggested in the book, I tipped the whole lot into my only cake tin, (got to mention the foil backed parchment paper is brilliant, nothing seems to stick to it)  and just doubled the recommended cooking time, once the oven started to bleep alerting me the cooking time had finished, I tested the sponge by sticking a clean knife into the centre and it came out clean, after letting the sponge cool down, I carefully sliced the single sponge into two pieces, it looked good, no soggy middle.

While the sponge was cooking, I had made up the coffee butter cream and placed it into the fridge to cool down and thicken up,  oh and the walnut praline,  I was a little bit short on walnuts and so made up the nut content with flaked almonds.

Spreading a decent quantity of the butter cream onto the top of one of the sponges – its looked good enough to eat, I then placed the other half of the sponge back on top of the base with the butter cream on, then finished the top off with the remainder of the butter cream, finally sprinkling the bashed walnut praline on the top of the cake.

I thought the recipe wanted more instant coffee flavour and toyed with increasing the amount of coffee in the cake, but on second thoughts, and as it turns out rather happily,   was not tempted to use any more ,  too much coffee will obscure the taste of the walnuts.
This really did go down a treat at the office, really rather yum!

The recipe can be found here

Daisy Lowe’s Ultimate Chocolate & Avocado Torte

For my girlfriends birthday I bought her Daisy Lowe’s recipe book Sweetness and Light in the hope that she would try all the recipes (the best presents are those that you get something back from!). So when it came round to my turn for a cake I had a convenient fresh supply of recipes to choose from.

Daisy’s recipe ticked all the boxes. It looked good, was healthy, would not be too sweet and could be enjoyed by Fern, our vegan Cake Crusader.  It was also the first cake I didn’t turn on the oven for! Just a fridge was needed.

Reading through the recipe steps I was concerned about some parts of this cake. From my relative lack of experience I was unsure how it would all stay together – more on that below.

Getting the ingredients was a little tricky I admit. I purposely visited larger ‘foodie’ supermarkets and health food stores (not all supermarkets sell macadamia nuts for example).

The cake is essentially made in two halves, a ‘dry’ bottom half consisting of chopped nuts, chopped dates and dessicated coconut. The top half being a ‘wet’ mixture of avocado, banana, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract.

Making the actual cake couldn’t be easier. Just add all the bottom half ingredients together into a blender, empty into a cake tin, then pack down.




Then add all the top half ingredients into the blender, mix until smooth then add to the same tin covering the bottom layer.

This would be simple and quick with a normal blender. Unfortunately I only had a small toy-like blender which meant I had to blend in batches. At least 3 batches were required for each half of the cake.

Earlier I alluded to a concern I had with this cake. The bottom half has simply 3 ingredients

  • chopped macadamia nuts
  • chopped large moist dates (stones removed)
  • dessicated coconut

From this list alone I’m scratching my head wondering how these relatively try ingredients are supposed to make a firm base. Judging from the pictures, the base needs to take on a cheese-cake-like firmness. Anyway, I trusted Daisy, so carried on with her recipeIMG_0096.




This is what my bottom half looked like after the first blend. I had measured my ingredients accurately but still wasn’t convinced that there is enough wetness in the dates to balance the dry coconut and chopped dates and hold it all together. I went an added more dates to the mix and gave it another go in the blender; 250g of dates, rather than the stated 210g – a whole 20% more!








Here its looking a little better, but my concerns did not improve. I thought maybe once it was packed down and left in the fridge the dates would congeel and bind the whole thing together. Maybe adding the top half would also help?




Tip: I was worried about how I would ever remove the cake from the tin. I need to lift it out without the use of a palette knife, so I engineered some clever strips of baking paper underneath the base which I could use to lift the cake out whole.

So, as instructed, I packed the mixture into the cake tin and used an identical cake tin to push down and flatten the mixture. I then popped it into the fridge whilst I prepared to topping.







Back to the blender. Just throw all the ingredients in and blend away. Spoon onto the base and pop back into the fridge. Fingers crossed the base would hold up.




Here is my finished cake. I attempted to create the look that Daisy had achieved in her book by marking grooves in the topping and filling with pieces of freeze-dried raspberries. At this stake the cake looked good, but this sense of achievement was short lived.





Cutting into the cake revealed my concerns about the base. It simply did not hold together. The crusaders all asked whether I missed something so I checked the recipe again. The only mistake I may have made is not ensuring the dates were moist enough. My dates were indeed moist and sticky but maybe not enough. This seems an unfair technicality to fail on. Maybe I could have soaked my dates in water to really get the stickiness I needed. Anyway, it tasted pretty good despite the crumbly base. The avocado and chocolate was a revelation and worked really well as an alternative to sugar based icing. On some mouthfuls the avocado taste would overpower the banana and other mouthfuls you got the opposite.

Still, I was disappointed and after discussing the bake with the crusaders I mentioned maybe the cake would be better as combined top and bottom energy-bar style slice. So, off I went with exactly one quarter of the remaining cake. I mashed the whole lot together, then sliced into fingers.








This was a pretty good way of salvaging the cake. The taste was the same as before just in a different form. Ok, the freshness was going out the cake by this point (almost two whole days since it had been made) and the banana was sweetening and this flavour was overpowering.





So there you have it. You can mash up a cake and still produce something quite tasty and presentable. You could in fact just make up this style cake if you want something portable and less fussy. If you attempt to make the intended cake just ensure you have the correct dates first!

Would love to hear your comments. What else could I have added to the base to make it firmer?

Anzac Biscuits

Hello Teamies

On looking through my BBC Good Food Cakes & Bakes book, lovingly purchased and gifted by my Mum, I found the perfect biscuit bake for our vegan colleague Fern, and just had to give them a try, and to my surprise I found yet another simple but delicious bake!

Keeping my blog short to allow others to update their blogs (sorry for the delay), I dedicate these scrumptious biscuits to our dear Fern as without her I would have passed them by!

  • Preheat over to 180/Gas 4
  • Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  • Put dessertspoons of the mixture on to a buttered baking sheet, remember to leave a space of around an inch between spoonfuls to allow the mixture to spread.
  • Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes until golden.
  • Mix makes around 20 biscuits

Mixture texture when ready for baking: