February 26, 2021



Internet shopping for groceries is a trial.  Some websites are easier to navigate than others but we usually get some surprises!  A recent one was an extra punnet of blueberries that we weren't expecting.

As well as the erroneous ordering there is also the phenomenon of strange substitutions.  Early in the lockdown last year I ordered a bag of caster sugar and was given this stuff instead.  It's granulated sugar with some sweetener added.  I was unsure about baking with it as most recipes specify caster sugar because dissolves more easily in baking, but have been using it to sweeten fruit in pies and crumbles.

When I was looking for a cake recipe using blueberries I turned up this one on the Baking Mad website and was intrigued that it used Half Spoon as the sugar ingredient.  I decided to give it a go, if only to use up some of the sugar!

It was dead easy to make, nothing complicated, and although I used my recently acquired Kenwood KMix, a bowl, a wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease would be just as good.  It was quick to bake too.

The cake was lovely (although I was slightly miffed that most of the blueberries sank to the bottom).  I marked out the cream cheese topping in a pattern that would make the cutting of regular slices easy whether in oblongs, squares or triangles.  I was very pleased with it.

I did however make a mistake in placing the blueberries for decoration.

Something else I was very pleased with is this food cover.  I had seen one in use at cake club and eventually spotted them for sale on Amazon (the dreaded).  It comes in a set of three different sizes and will cover anything more effectively than the square tent shaped ones I normally use, which are often plenty wide enough but not tall enough to cover a cake on a cake stand.  This one easily fitted over the cake on its stand, keeping it safe from the attention of insects and pets.  Highly recommended.


For the cake

300g self raising flour (or ⅔ SR and ⅓ sponge flour)

1½ tsp baking powder

300g soft margarine (I used Stork)

125g Half Spoon sugar alternative*

5 medium eggs

zest and juice of 1 lemon

100g blueberries

a splash of milk if needed

For the topping

180g cream cheese

25g softened butter

2 heaped tblsp icing sugar

A handful of blueberries


Grease and line the base of a 22 or 23 cm square tin.  Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  

Put all the cake ingredients except for the blueberries into a large bowl and beat well until combined. Beat in a splash (about a tablespoon) of milk if the mixture seems quite stiff (mine was but I now wonder if adding the milk is why the blueberries sank.  I might omit it and go with a stiffer mixture next time).   Fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Tap the tin on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

To make the topping, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Sift in the icing sugar and beat in.  When the cake is completely cool, spread the topping over and swirl it or use a fork to create a pattern.  Distribute the extra blueberries over the top.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 12-16 portions.

*If you want to make the recipe with caster sugar instead of Half Spoon, follow the advice in the link.  Essentially it implies that you would use twice as much sugar and less baking powder.  I haven't tried it!

February 18, 2021



Sometimes the simplest of desserts is just what you need and hits the spot just as much as other more sophisticated concoctions.

My neighbours had an excess of milk and gave us two pints.  After about three days we were still behind on the milk consumption and I was gleefully thinking of ways to use it up.  We are very fortunate in that we have milk delivered to our doorstep in glass bottles, two pints on Tuesdays and Thursdays and three on Saturdays, making a total of seven per week or one a day.  That's just the right amount for us and the milkman (a young man with alarmingly red dyed hair) also brings us half a dozen totally delicious free range eggs on a Thursday. 

We were behind on the egg consumption as well so an egg custard sprung to mind.  Not a custard tart but just a baked egg custard, just like Mum used to make regularly when she had milk to spare.  In fact even if she didn't have milk to spare.  I would request an egg custard and she would say yes but only if I went to the farm for some more milk.  The farm was called Splash Farm and I would trot joyfully down the road and knock on the door of the farmhouse.  The cows grazed in the fields opposite our house.  The farmer's wife always wore wellingtons and a floral pinny and there was a distinct whiff of cowshed as she opened the door (the only bit I didn't like about the farm).  The milk was in crates standing on the ancient cold stone flags just inside the front door, ready for the steady trickle of callers nipping down the lane for an extra pint or two.  Happy days.

I hadn't made an egg custard for at least thirty years and had only a scant recollection of how my mum used to make it.  I did a bit of internet research and came across this recipe which seemed the simplest and the most like how she would have done it.  Some of the others I found were much too fancy, using cream and flavourings that she would never have used.

I doubled up the quantities in the recipe and made two puddings, giving one back to the neighbours.  I did knock on their door and ask first (socially distanced) if they would like one, not to feel obliged to say yes.  Their eyes lit up and faces beamed.  

Although there is only half a pint of milk in each pudding it was enough for four portions.  There was however a great temptation to scoff the lot between the two of us in one go!

And here's one I made later, using four small ramekins.
They were done in around 30 minutes.


½ pint (300ml) semi skimmed milk
2 medium eggs
1oz (25g) caster sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
grated nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk 3.

Put the milk into a small saucepan and heat gently until hot but not boiling.  Put the eggs, vanilla and sugar into a bowl and give a light whisk to combine.  Pour a little of the hot milk onto the eggs and stir well.  Add the rest of the milk and stir together.  (I read on another website that adding all the hot milk at once can cause the eggs to curdle.)

Pour the mixture through a sieve into a suitable 1 pint ovenproof dish and sprinkle a little grated nutmeg over the top.  (I used a small Pyrex lasagne dish that I got from a charity shop for 50p.  I am always baffled that anyone would give such a useful thing away.)  Another alternative would be to divide the mixture between four ovenproof ramekins.

Bake for about 45 minutes until just set.  It should have a slight wobble and not be either still runny or completely set.  Allow to cool until just warm before serving.

Serves 4.