July 31, 2011



Dom at Bellau Kitchen had another Random Recipe Challenge, this time to cook something from your favourite recipe book.  I decided to have a go, confident that I knew instantly which was my favourite cookbook, but when I came to pick it off the shelf – several shelves nowadays, groaning under the weight of and ever-increasing collection of cookbooks– I found myself hesitating. 

chocolate cake

How could I choose one beloved cookbook over another – there were so many well-used and well-loved favourites.  There were very old favourites from the 1970’s, newer ones from the 80’s and 90’s, and lots of really new ones, full of exciting recipes that I can hardly wait to try.  Choosing turned out to be quite a problem, involving lots of head-scratching, soul-searching and delicious time spent browsing my collection of books and remembering past baking adventures.

In the end I stuck with my original thought, my very first recipe book, well thumbed and with a few greasy pages – even though I try to keep my cookbooks in pristine condition, sooner or later, something is just bound to get splattered onto the pages.  The Homepride Book of Home Baking.

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The book was published in 1970 and I sent off for it using a coupon from a pack of Homepride flour.  There are more coupons inside the back page that you can give to your friends so they can send for one too, for the princely sum of 13/6.  That’s 13 shillings and 6 pence in old money, about 65p in new money.  In the early 70’s, in a good  month, if I did lots of overtime and several Saturday mornings, I would bring home £100 after tax, so 65p was quite a proportion of my wages, much more so than an average cookbook today.

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Every page has several recipes on and I kind of knew instantly which page it would fall open at – the book almost opens itself at the same page, it has been used so often !!  So I decided to bake the “all in one” chocolate cake, my absolute favourite in the book.

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It has to be the easiest cake ever to make.  You put all the ingredients in a bowl and beat for one minute.  Bake for 25 minutes, make a simple butter icing, sandwich the two halves together and it’s done!

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Nowadays I use my Kenwood Chef, making the process even easier.  I still beat the butter cream by hand – there’s something satisfying about giving it a good beating and ending up with something really smooth and silky.  (Not to mention really tasty and chocolatey too.)

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I always make the same pattern on top, dragging a fork through the buttercream, just like the picture in the book.  Then I sprinkle a little icing sugar on top.

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ET VOILÀ !!  A chocolate cake that is moist, chocolately, dead easy to make and has been presented at many a birthday party over the decades.  (four decades, now I think about it!)

All in one Chocolate Cake


For the cake

150g self raising flour

a small pinch of salt

3 eggs

150g whipped fat

150 caster sugar

1tablespoon cocoa powder

1tablespoon warm water

For the butter icing

50g butter

100g icing sugar

1tablespoon cocoa powder

1tablespoon water


Grease two sandwich tins and line the bottoms with greaseproof or baking paper.  Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Mix the cocoa powder and water to a smooth paste, add to a mixing bowl with all the other cake ingredients and beat for one minute until thoroughly combined.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and level the top.

Bake for 25 minutes until firm to the touch.

Turn out and cool on a rack.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream.  Cut the butter into pieces and beat until soft.

Sift the icing sugar into the butter a spoonful at a time and beat until smooth.

Mix the cocoa powder to a paste with the water, add to the buttercream mixture and beat again until silky and smooth.

When the cakes are absolutely cold*, put one upside down on your serving plate and spread half the buttercream over it, making sure you go right to the edge.

Spread the other half of the buttercream on top of the other cake and smooth with a knife.

Sandwich the two halves together.  Make a zig-zag or swirly pattern in the topping with a fork and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

*I learned the hard way many years ago that if you are in a hurry and try to put the topping on the cake when it is still slightly warm, it melts and slides off !!

July 3, 2011


I harvested my gooseberries last weekend and have the scars to prove it.  You should get danger money for jobs like that.

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Anyway, I made my favourite gooseberry pudding, using a recipe from Delia’s Summer Collection – gooseberry cobbler.  It includes an interesting mystery ingredient – elderflower cordial.    You can see the recipe on Delia’s website here.

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It’s the simplest of puddings to make.  You simply pile the gooseberries into a dish, sprinkle on the cordial and some sugar, make a sticky dough and dollop that on top and hey presto – you have a pretty swish pudding.  Impressive enough for visitors, too.  Especially if you make fancy ice-cream to go with it.

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Here’s my version of gooseberry cobbler.

This is what you need

900g gooseberries (I only had 500g and it still worked well)

110g caster sugar

2tblsp elderflower cordial

225g plain flour

½tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

110g butter, diced

170ml buttermilk (or half milk and half natural yoghurt)

demerara sugar to sprinkle

This is what you do

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°fan/gas mk 7

Grease a 23 cm round deep baking dish, or equivalent oblong dish.

Wash and top and tail the gooseberries and tumble into the dish.  Sprinkle the caster sugar and cordial on top.

Put the flour, salt, baking powder and butter into a food processor and blitz until “breadcrumbs” form.  Add the liquid and pulse until a sticky dough forms.

Dollop tablespoons of the mixture on top of the fruit and sprinkle about a teaspoon of demerara sugar on top of that.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm with custard, cream or ice-cream.

Serves 6