June 10, 2018

RUM AND DATE CAKE (gluten free)

rum and date gluten free cake

This is an adaptation of a recipe for a gluten free lemon drizzle cake that I found on the Tesco website.  You can see that recipe here.  I was making a cake for a boozy themed CCC event and it needed to be gluten free.

It’s probably two years since I baked this cake and I made notes at the time about how I had adapted the recipe.  I printed off the recipe and added my slip of paper with the changes tucked into a clear plastic cover for future use.  Then it disappeared.  I have looked for it many times since then and then yesterday, as if by magic, it surfaced, when I was looking for something else, hidden in a folder with a bundle of other forgotten recipes.

rum and date gluten free cake2

I remember that the cake turned out well, nice and moist with a hint of rum and of course anything with dates in it is just my cup of tea.  Now that I have found it I will be able to make it again.  Highly recommended to go with your afternoon cuppa or other beverage of your choice!


170g softened butter or baking spread (I used Flora Buttery)

50g light muscovado sugar

120g caster sugar

2 large eggs

120g gluten free plain flour

50g ground almonds

1 scant tsp GF baking powder

75g chopped dates

2 tblsp rum


First, put the dates into a small bowl with the rum and leave to soak.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin or use a liner.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Fold in the flour, almonds and baking powder then mix in the soaked dates until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and bake for 45 minutes or until done.  Remove from the oven then cool in the tin before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

June 5, 2018



We were recently served a small portion of this as a starter in one of those “menu du jour” restaurants in the Dordogne.  The ones where there is no choice for lunch and you get what there is on the menu that day, which usually includes cheese and wine as part of the all-in price.  On that particular day we had garlic soup, this salad, entrecote and frites, cheese, crème brulée and a glass of wine all for 12.50€ including bread and the only extra we paid was for two espressos. 

The dish has its origins somewhere in the prawn cocktail years* and it reminded me of the 1970’s buffet table delights that I used to serve up at family parties.  I enjoyed it so much that I wasted no time in recreating something very similar for lunch one day once we were back home.  The main reason for me writing this post is so that I can remember how I did it!

*”The Prawn Cocktail Years” is actually the title of an excellent cookbook by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham.  It includes recipes for many of the old favourites of the 1970’s which every self respecting housewife should have been able to rustle up to impress friends and family at social occasions.  I was really lucky and picked up a copy in pristine condition in a charity shop a couple of years ago.



4tblsp any mini pasta – I used 2 tblsp each of risetti and etioles but alphabet pasta would be nice too.

2 hard boiled eggs, quartered

1 small tin tuna, drained and flaked

2 inches of cucumber, cut into 1cm cubes

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 spring onions, thinly sliced, or half a small red onion, diced

1 small tin sweetcorn, drained

salt and pepper to taste

1 tblsp mayonnaise or crème fraîche, as required

a few chopped chives


Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, drain and leave to cool.

Add all the other ingredients and mix well to combine, using enough mayo or crème fraîche to loosen it to your taste.

Serve with a small green salad and crusty bread as a starter or lunch dish.  You could of course add any other bits and pieces that take your fancy, such as chopped red or yellow pepper, quartered radish and so on, depending on what you have in the fridge.  Back in the day I would have used rice instead of the pasta.

Serves 6 as a starter, 4 portions as a lunch course.

May 27, 2018


lemon and elderflower roll

There was much talk about the wedding cake for the Royal Wedding earlier this month.  In fact many versions of the lemon and elderflower Royal Wedding Cake appeared on the internet for us to bake ourselves.  I was not inspired until I spotted a recipe for a lemon and elderflower Swiss roll and with guests coming for dinner that evening, I thought it would be the perfect dessert and homage to the big event (and big cake) on the day.

lemon and elderflower roll2

I used the Mary Berry recipe that I have used before and adapted the recipe for the occasion by adding elderflower cordial to the sponge mixture and elderflower liqueur to the filling.

lemon and elderflower roll3

It went down a treat at our little dinner party.  I simply dusted it with icing sugar before serving and put a little pot of whipped cream flavoured with the elderflower liqueur on the table alongside the cake.  We also toasted the bride and groom with a small glass of the same liqueur on cutting the cake!

I love these fat free whisked sponges.  They are so light and fluffy and ideal for a dessert.  The idea of making a Swiss roll used to have me quaking in my shoes but the more often I make them, the more I realise that although they look really clever, they’re a doddle to make.


for the cake:

4 large eggs

100g caster sugar

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 tblsp elderflower cordial

100g self raising flour

for the filling:

2 tablespoons lemon curd

1 tblsp elderflower cordial

200ml whipping cream

1 tblsp St-Germain liqueur (or elderflower cordial)

icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Grease a 33cm x 23cm swiss roll tin and line it with baking paper.

Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest together until you have a very thick, pale mixture.  It is whisked enough when the beaters leave a trail as you lift them out of the mixture.  Whisk in the elderflower cordial.

Sift the flour into the mixture and fold it in gently using a metal spoon.  Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin, tipping it a little to encourage the mixture to flow into the corners.

Bake the sponge for 10 minutes until the cake is golden brown, shrinks away from the sides of the tin and springs back to the touch. 

While it’s in the oven, cut a piece of baking parchment bigger than the tin, spread it out on the worktop and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Also prepare the filling by putting the lemon curd into a small bowl and beat in the elderflower cordial to make it looser.  Whisk the cream with the elderflower liqueur until thick but not too stiff.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the tin to tip it upside down onto the sugared paper.  Remove the paper from the bottom (now the top) of the cake.  Use a sharp knife to trim the edges and score a line 1cm in from one short end, without cutting through the cake.

Allow it to cool slightly, spread with the lemon curd then the whipped cream, saving any excess cream to serve separately in a small bowl with the cake.  Turn the cake so that the scored short end is nearest to you and, using the paper to help you manoeuvre the cake, take a deep breath and roll it up.

Transfer to a serving plate and dust with icing sugar. 

Cuts into 12 slices.

May 1, 2018


milk chocolate cake4

I made this cake for our most recent CCC event which was themed “Inspired Baking”, although to be honest, it’s a recipe I’d had in mind to do for some time.

My baking inspiration, like so many people I suppose, came from my mum.  She was a good cook of tasty, plain and hearty food and she did a lot of baking.  Every Saturday and sometimes again during the week she would bake a huge pile of little buns and pastries, her favourites being sausage rolls, maids of honour, mince pies and butterfly buns.  Curiously she didn’t make a cake that often.  She would make a Christmas cake at Christmas, parkin for Bonfire Night, the occasional Victoria sponge or chocolate cake and that was about it.  If a cake was required for a birthday or Sunday treat it was usually a chocolate cake and made using Cadbury’s drinking chocolate not cocoa powder as that’s what she would have in the house.

milk chocolate cake2

I was reminded of all this when I stumbled across this recipe by Karen in her “Lavender and Lovage” blog.  Most chocolate cakes nowadays are made using melted chocolate or cocoa powder, which is very fine but often a bit too chocolatey for me and in any case, my mum would never have contemplated anything so extravagant!

Most of her baking came from a recipe in her well thumbed and ancient copy of the Be-Ro book but I can’t find anything in the more recent editions that uses drinking chocolate.  Hence I used Karen’s recipe and a great success it was too.

milk chocolate cake3

I had my doubts when it came out of the oven, there being a sunken ring around each cake which caused my heart to sink too.  However, a good slathering with cherry jam and the frostng concealed all the dents and wrinkles and once decorated with Oreo biscuits, chocolate raisins, mini eggs and little Aeros, it looked a treat.  It tasted really good too.  It had a light and moist texture, something you don’t always get by using cocoa powder, and was well received at the meeting.  Definitely a cake I shall be baking again – if only because it would remind me of my mum every time.

milk chocolate cake6

I have adapted Karen’s excellent recipe for the ingredients I had available and it worked well but I suggest you first try her recipe which you can see here.


150g self raising flour, sifted

75g drinking chocolate (I used Nestlé “Le Chocolat”)

2 tsp baking powder

180g caster sugar

200g soft margarine or baking spread (I used St Hubert margarine)

3 large eggs

3 tblsp hot water

For the icing and filling

2-4 tblsp cherry jam

225g milk chocolate

125 ml double cream (I used Tesco double cream substitute)

150g unsalted butter, softened

225g icing sugar


Butter and line the bases of two 20cm round sponge tins.  Preheat the oven to 175°C / 155° fan / gas mk 4.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add all the other cake ingredients except for the hot water.  Whisk with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Add the hot water and whisk again for about 3 minutes until even fluffier.

Divide between the prepared tins and bake for 20-30 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

To make the frosting, break the chocolate into pieces and put with the cream in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir continuously until the chocolate is melted and well blended with the cream. Remove from the heat and add the butter.  Stir until the butter is blended in.  Sift in half the icing sugar and mix well, then add the remaining icing sugar and mix until creamy and smooth.  Set aside to cool until thickened.

When the cakes are completely cold sit one cake on a plate or stand and spread with a layer of cherry jam.  Spread half the frosting on top of that.

Put the other cake on top, spread with the remaining frosting,  decorate with whatever takes your fancy and serve.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

April 17, 2018

BLUEBERRY AND COCONUT CAKE and is cake really sexy?

blueberry and coconut cake

I made this cake ages ago, nearly two years ago in fact, and then the book I got the recipe from went missing.  When I was in France I thought it must be in the UK and vice versa.  I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere on the worldwide web so I was feeling miffed that I had made a really nice cake but had no idea how!  When I eventually found the book languishing under a pile of other stuff waiting for filing, sorting, chucking or saving, I was very pleased.  It was a good cake and I wanted to have the recipe so I could make it again if I ever wanted to.  The book is called “What’s for dinner?” by the actress Fay Ripley.

blueberry and coconut cake2

The cake didn’t look much when it came out of the oven, which made me chuckle because in the book she describes it as “comforting and sexy at the same time”.

Well, I don’t know what you think about the idea of cake being sexy, but this one did not look too enticing!  More twinset and pearls than slinky undies but if that’s what wrinkles your prune…….

Anyway, enough of that!   One of the reasons that I write this blog is that I find it handy to have a record of the recipes I used and what they turned out like.  Now that I have this one posted I can always find it regardless of which side of the channel I happen to be!  It was a lovely cake made for a CCC event although it looked a lot better after I had tarted it up with some drizzly icing and a sprinkling of coconut and blueberries.  It was moist and fresh tasting with the fruitiness of the blueberries, and the coconut added that unique texture that you only get from……coconut.  Which is not everyone’s favourite in a cake but it is one of mine.

blueberry and coconut cake3

There were some stunning cakes on the table at that meeting  and I would like to think that mine looked as tempting as any of them.  Not that the events are competitive of course – far from it – but even so, one does like one’s cake to look more bee’s knees than dog’s dinner!


180g softened butter (I used Flora Buttery)

180g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g ground almonds

150g self raising flour

60g desiccated coconut

300g fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and almonds.  Fold in the flour and coconut then, very gently, the blueberries.

Transfer to the tin and level the top.  Bake for 50 minutes until done. 

Serve warm as a dessert dusted with a little icing sugar.  Or allow to cool in the tin before turning out and decorate with a little lemon water icing drizzled over, some shredded coconut and blueberries arranged on top.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 9, 2018


sunday school cake2

Much water has gone under the bridge and many a cake has been baked since I last posted.

The water is because the winter that has just passed must be the wettest that I remember.  There may have been even wetter ones before but I don’t remember those, only this one which has, frankly, been miserable.  My winterus horribilis (no idea if my Latin is correct, which is probably isn’t because I just made it up.)

I shall remember this winter for the muck, mud, mess and litter.  The muck comes from the renovation of our 1960’s UK bungalow, any building work seemingly impossible to achieve unless there is a ton of muck produced every single day.  The mud comes from the back garden where our new puppy Hugo churned it up and brought loads of it into the house.  The mess is the mess in the house as we moved furniture and boxes of our belongings from one room to another, upstairs and downstairs and back again (it’s a dormer bungalow) to make way for some building project or other with a deadline to meet.  The litter is everywhere in the UK as far as I can see.  And in fact as far as everyone can see.  It’s awful.

In fact the filthy state of the roads, pavements and grass verges in the UK depresses me enormously.  Who are these people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to chuck stuff onto the streets and roads?  Do they think someone else is going to pick it up or do they simply not care how awful it looks?  The situation is in such sharp contrast to how it is in our part of rural France where I am happy to say there is virtually no litter at all.  In fact if you see any litter it’s remarkable for its presence, hands are waved in horror in an ooh-la-la kind of way.  I know that there are fewer people in rural France and fewer fast food outlets, but people do eat and do buy packaged stuff.  They simply dispose of their rubbish properly, like we all should in the UK but don’t.

Anyway, rant over and back to the cake!

sunday school cake

This was Nick’s cake for a recent meeting of Loire Valley Clandestine Cake Club, which I have the honour and privilege to organise.  The theme was “inspired baking”, hoping to find out what or who inspires the members to bake what they bake.  In Nick’s case the inspiration came from his mum who got him and his three sisters to take turns to bake either a cake or pudding for afters every Sunday.  With Nick’s dad being a vicar, lunch or tea was timed around the Sunday morning church service and afternoon Sunday school, hence the name for the cake. 

sunday school cake3

Being a boy, he was somewhat mischievous in his baking, usually creating something out of the ordinary, and his pink cakes became famous for their – pinkness.  For the meeting he baked a cake with a nod to the old mischief and produced a three layer cake flavoured with chocolate, rose and almond.  He used the all-in-one sponge recipe in my ancient (early 1970’s) Homepride Flourgraders Recipe Book (price 13/6d including postage) and added flavouring and colouring accordingly.

It was a lovely cake, one of those that almost disappeared completely at the meeting and I had to snaffle the last slice to take home so that I could taste it myself.  Which really was a tribute to the recipe, having stood the test of time and never failed.  It is written in ounces as that’s how things were weighed in the 70’s.  Because he used French flour, which doesn’t seem to produce as good a rise as our Homepride flour, Nick added a little (French) baking powder which wasn’t in the original recipe.

He sandwiched the cake layers with some Bon Maman three fruit jam and some double cream.  French cream is notoriously difficult to whisk thickly enough to do anything with it so he used some “double cream substitute”, a boxed long life product that I buy in Tesco and bring to France with me.  Shamelessly bad ex-pat behaviour I know, but a person can only take so many whipped cream disasters before all the hair is torn out and before resorting to alternative solutions.

You can read all about the meeting here.

sunday school cake4


8 oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

8 oz whipped fat/margarine

8 oz caster sugar

½ tblsp cocoa powder

½ tblsp warm water

½ tsp rose water

a few drops pink or red food colouring

½ tsp almond essence

200ml double cream, whipped for spreading

4 tblsp red jam

chocolate mini eggs or other decorations (optional)


Grease and line the bottom of three 7” (18cm) sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the eggs, margarine and sugar and whisk with an electric whisk until well blended and creamy. 

Divide the mixture into three equal parts in three bowls – as a rough guide there should be about 10 oz in each bowl. 

Mix the cocoa powder to a smooth paste with the warm water and add to one of the bowls.  Add the rose water to a second along with enough colouring to produce a nice pink colour.  Add the almond essence to the third.

Whisk the contents of each bowl until the flavourings are well blended and transfer to the tins.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Shortly before you are ready to serve, spread some jam on top of the chocolate sponge followed by some whipped cream.  Put the pink sponge on top and repeat the filling.  Add the almond sponge and decorate the top with some piped cream – and a few mini eggs or other decorations if you like.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

February 3, 2018


nectarine upside down cake3

This is another cake made by Nick for a CCC meeting last year.  For a man who claims not to be a fan of cake, he’s a pretty good baker.  He follows the recipe to the letter – although equally is not averse to adding his own twist, which usually works out fine.

He used this recipe on the Good Food website, a recipe I have used before and adapted to make my pear and ginger and blackberry and chocolate upside down cakes.  For all these cakes the principal change on the recipe is to add a layer of jam between the sponge layers to enhance the fruit flavour of the topping.  In this case Nick used some apricot jam.

nectarine upside down cake2

This is a great little recipe, easy to make and successful every time.  I love recipes that are so adaptable and reliable, that you can trust not to let you down.

nectarine upside down cake3


There were some truly magnificent cakes at the CCC meeting that day.  The theme was “the taste of summer” and the sun obliged and came out to play, giving us a beautiful blue sky and little fluffy clouds all day.  Nick’s cake looked very much the part on the table with all the other cakes.


For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter

200g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

3 ripe nectarines

75g light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp apricot jam

125ml double cream

1tblsp icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add all the other cake ingredients and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.

Cut the nectarines into half and remove the stone then cut each half into four thick slices  Arrange the slices roughly as in the picture, on top of the brown sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the slices of fruit and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done.  The one with the nectarines on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.

Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack, remembering to flip the fruited cake so that the fruit is on the top!

Whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the apricot jam on the bare cake half.  (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)

Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first.  Put the fruited cake on top of that.

Cuts into at least 8 slices.