February 28, 2023


I often think very fondly of the old Cake Club days.  It started as a Loire Valley branch of the now defunct Clandestine Cake Club.  When that folded the members opted for a more varied style and it evolved into a kind of lunch club.  I handed the reins to someone who arranged just one meeting, the pandemic ultimately seeing the club off.  There has been no sign of it being resurrected, even though several of the former members tell me how much they miss it.  Hey ho.  
In reality there are plenty of other events where large groups meet and eat - although the sight of a dozen or more fabulous cakes laid out on someone's dining table and a group of lovely bakers gleefully anticipating a slice or three while they sipped their glass of the Loire's finest fizz is beyond compare!  For a confessed cakeaholic that is!

This cake was one that I made for a cake club meeting and it comes from a great blog written by Dominic Franks.  I have made more cakes from his blog than from any other source (unless you count my collection of Mary Berry cook books as a single source!).

I was going through a chocolate cake phase at the time.  That was followed by an apple cake phase.  In any case, it was a lovely cake and you can read all about it here.

February 26, 2023


I spotted this recipe on Kirsten's blog, "A letter from home" and you can see the post here.  As soon as I read about it I felt compelled to make the cake.  The recipe comes from the Sainsbury's Magazine website where you can see a number of ideas for using Biscoff spread here.

The recipe has only three ingredients; a jar of Biscoff spread, two eggs and some baking powder.  Biscoff spread has the same flavour as those delicious little biscuits (the kind often served alongside tea or coffee in cafés and tea rooms.)   As I poured the mixture into the cake tin I looked at the thin layer of it and thought "that will never work", even though the pictures on Kirsten's blog and Sainsbury's website clearly indicate that it does!

It worked!  It has to be the fastest cake I have ever made and it rose perfectly and looked exactly like......cake!  Luckily we were having visitors so I needed to create something for dessert other than my current staple of fruit salad.  (I was aware that our young guests were not huge fans of fruit salad.)

Diet or no diet I served myself a thin slice (to go with my dish of fruit salad) and can confirm that by some miracle the unlikely looking mixture magically turned into an actual delightful and delicious cake!

I bet you could also make it into lovely muffins, mini muffins or possibly even an apple pudding........a kind of Eve's pudding with a cinnamon sponge topping.......mmmmm.  I bet you could even make the mixture into a sandwich cake using two 18cm tins and sandwiching it together with the Biscoff buttercream suggested on the website.  Double mmmmmm......!!

The original recipe suggested that you melt a little more Biscoff spread to drizzle over the top.  That meant I would have to buy a second jar and having something like that in the house is far too dangerous.  Instead I bought a pack of the little Biscoff biscuits.  (Biscuits are one of the things Nick is filling up on while I abstain so I knew they wouldn't go to waste).  I bashed a couple into crumbs using a rolling pin and sprinkled them on the top, thereby turning it into a crumble cake.  

Marvellous!  And miraculous!


1 400g jar of Biscoff spread

2 large eggs

1½ tsp baking powder

a couple of Biscoff biscuits (optional)


Preheat your oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line the base of a 20cm cake tin.

Spoon the spread into a large bowl and microwave briefly until it becomes just liquid.  Mine reached this stage after exactly one minute at power 900.

Using a hand held electric whisk, beat in the baking powder, then the eggs.  (My mixture stiffened up a bit once the eggs were whisked in.)

Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Put two Biscoff biscuits (if using) into a polythene bag and bash until they become crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake for 30 minutes until done.  I cooled my cake in the tin before turning out.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

February 21, 2023


The sprout is not everybody's favourite vegetable but in this house we love them!  We even loved them before they were genetically modified (or whatever they did to them) to be less bitter.  As a child I was brought up on home grown veg and sprouts were a favourite back then.

The recipe came about because I found an unopened bag of sprouts in the fridge when Christmas was well and truly over and just fancied doing something different with them.  We enjoyed it so much that I have made it several times since then.

You could substitute broccoli,  asparagus or green beans instead.  You could, if you feel inclined, also add a teaspoon of chilli flakes to add a bit of punch.  Personally I can't take the heat so would add some herbs instead.  I also added a sliced Matteson's smoked sausage for a bit of extra flavour, which added not too many calories to each serving and was well worth it!


a good handful of sprouts, trimmed, washed and each one cut in half (unless they are already very small).

1 large leek, trimmed and finely sliced

2 peppers from a jar of roasted peppers in brine, sliced (those in oil will add more calories)

1 Matteson's light smoked sausage (or similar), thinly sliced

4-6 medium eggs (depends on the size of your dish)

a little semi skimmed milk

a tsp or two of dried herbs


Preheat the oven to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 6.

Cook the sprouts in boiling water for a few minutes until just tender.

Spray a frying pan with 1-cal cooking spray and cook the leeks until soft and beginning to colour.  (Alternatively, cook them in water with the sprouts.)

Spray a suitable baking tray or dish with cooking spray and tip in all the veg along with the slices of sausage.  Stir to make sure they are level and evenly distributed (so that nobody gets most of the sausage!).

Crack the eggs into a jug and add a splash of milk and salt and pepper.  Beat well and pour evenly over the filling.  Sprinkle the dried herbs over.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the frittata is just set.

Serve hot, warm or cold, with veg, or salad.

Serves four generously.

February 18, 2023



This excellent recipe deserved a second outing but......I never did.

You can read about it here.

February 14, 2023


 This is another cake that I meant to make again but never did!

I remember that it was stunningly delicious but created a lot of washing up.

You can read about it here.

February 12, 2023


The diet I have been following is very effective.  It cuts out most fat, sugar and some of the carbs from my daily intake, allowing plenty of veg, fruit and protein.  Pasta, potatoes and rice can be eaten freely, which seemed odd at first but I can understand the reasoning behind it.  There is a limit to how much of that stuff I can eat at a meal and if I'm full on those I'm then less likely to snack on fattening foods between meals.  I have never once felt hungry during the fourteen weeks I have been following the plan and so far have lost 1 stone 9 lb, i.e. 23 lb or roughly 11 kilos.  I feel immensely better for it, in so many ways.

Success lies in planning meals, not being caught out when eating out and, above all, changing the way we cook.  I say we because Nick does about the same amount of cooking as I do and we are eating the same things.  He does not need to lose any weight so fills up on bread, toast, extra potatoes or pasta or whatever.  We always had what I thought was a healthy diet but without a doubt there were too many treats, snacks and wine.  (Reducing our wine intake has been the hardest part.)

We have both adapted to the new way of cooking which is basically with virtually no fat.  It's true that a certain amount of butter or oil in cooking adds flavour to the food (and realistically we never had that much of either of them) but we have got used to not having them, to the extent that we no longer feel the need to use them.  It's an interesting process of change.  Understanding that you can cook tasty food without fattening ingredients is key to the process.

I personally make meatballs very infrequently, probably about once every ten years!  I always thought they were a bit of a faff but this recipe is very quick to prepare if much slower to cook.  The original gives courgettes and aubergine as the veg part of the dish but I used some bits and pieces of other veg instead of the aubergine, as that's what I had in the fridge.

The quantity serves four so we had the first half served separately with pasta, then turned it into a pasta traybake the next day.  Delicious and very un-fattening!


For the meatballs

500g very lean minced beef, 5% fat or less

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

For the sauce

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp dried oregano

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 400g carton passata 

1 veg stock pot made up to 150 ml with boiling water (or home made stock)

1 large courgette, cut into large chunks

Root veg such as parsnip, swede, butternut squash, celeriac, trimmed and cut into chunks


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.

Put the tomatoes, passata and stock into a large roasting tin or casserole dish, add the veg, oregano and one of the chopped onions and stir together.  Cover with foil or a lid and bake in the oven for 50 minutes

While the veg are cooking make the meatballs by putting the minced beef, the other chopped onion and the crushed garlic into a large bowl.  With your hands mix it all well together.

Divide the mixture into 20 roughly equal portions and roll each one into a ball.  Place them on a tray of some kind and put in the fridge to chill.

After the 50 minutes cooking time, stir the meatballs into the mixture and bake with the lid on for another 40 minutes.

Serve with pasta or veg.

Serves 4.

February 7, 2023

COFFEE CAKE and on getting withdrawal symptoms.


It is now four months since I made a cake of any kind.

That's one third of a whole year and I am beginning to get twitchy.

The thing that has caused my jitters is that it's my sister-in-law's ruby wedding anniversary this coming weekend and before I could stop myself I offered to make a cake.  They are having a simple celebration at home involving drinks and nibbles so a cake would be ideal.

I then asked what kind of cake they would like and my brother-in-law said "coffee and walnut".

Now, much as I love a coffee and walnut cake (and would kill for a nice thick slice of one right now) I was mightily disappointed to be robbed of the opportunity to make something a bit more out of the ordinary!

The cake in the picture was a coffee cake without the walnuts except for the decoration.  It was an excellent cake and you can read about it here.



For the ruby wedding bash I made the Hairy Bikers recipe for a coffee and walnut cake.

I made it in square tins and served it on a square cake stand, square cakes being easier to cut into smaller pieces than round ones for a gathering I have found.

It was a real hit and received much attention as well as requests for the recipe.  You can see that here.  It's the unique flavour of Camp coffee essence that does it I think.

February 1, 2023


This recipe comes from the very first recipe book I ever bought, the Homepride Book of Home Baking, published in 1970.  I had to send off for it using a postal order for the princely sum of £13/6d, including postage.  That's 13 shillings and 6 old pence in £sd, "old money" or pre-decimal coinage.  Or 65p in today's money.  There are still several cut-out coupons in the back of the book to order extra copies!

This was the cake I made for decades; for birthdays, weekends, visits from the mother-in-law or good friends.  It's an all-in-one recipe, in other words all the ingredients are mixed together in one bowl.  I made it using a wooden spoon and Pyrex mixing bowl long before I had any kind of food mixer. 

It's an excellent chocolate cake, lovely and moist and made with storecupboard ingredients that don't cost a fortune.  It's equal to the chocolate Guinness cake in terms of favourites and you can see the recipe here.