Category Archives: Cake

The Great Wedding Bake Off

May the 4th was my cousin Jo’s wedding. The whole family descended on Henley, even the sun graced us with it’s presence. You can see from her blog that Jo is very crafty so we had predicted that she would have made some of the decorations for the day, but we were totally overwhelmed by how much trouble she went to! Handmade confetti, hand printed table runners, personalised table settings and bright, colourful flower arrangements & bouquets made the day so unique.


After the simple ceremony, and the fantastic hog roast was another quirky addition to the day, instead of dessert Jo organised The Great Wedding Bake Off. Everyone was invited to bake something and that meant that there were lots of different puddings for everyone to try, which wasn’t exactly a hardship.

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the ideas I had for what to bake, and everyone seemed to be on the same track as me… the dobos torte. Now I could have done a gorgeous rectangular dobos torte like Deb on Smitten Kitchen, but I like to make life complicated for myself. The notes with the recipe mentioned that you can ‘paint’ the batter into a shape drawn on a baking sheet so I decided that for the wedding I would make the cake in the shape of the bride & groom’s initials. See, always complicating things.


I baked a practice version for the Band of Bakers party in the shape of ‘BoB’. I was really pleased with it until I saw it next to all the other bakes and realised that I really am hopeless at icing & decorating. It looked awful! Oh well, that’s what a practice run is for and all the feedback said it was delicious which is the main thing.


So on the Thursday I drew out my ‘NJ’ cake shape on 7 sheets of baking paper mixed up the cake batter and baked them all. I had extra batter left over as the area the ‘NJ’ covers wasn’t very large, so I baked an extra couple of layers. I then froze them until the Friday to make sure they stayed fresh. Then on the Friday I made up the icing, sandwiching the layers together and encasing it in chocolate. To make sure it looked rather better than my Band of Bakers version I bust out a piping bag to stud the outline of the initials and I think it looked beautiful.


Transporting the cake back to my mother’s house and then on to the wedding was a challenge. We didn’t have anything big enough in the kitchen to cover it, so ended up improvising with a storage box, some cling film and a lot of electrical tape. It was precarious but at least the cake made it there in one piece.


There were so many great cakes, but as the only obscenely chocolatey one mine proved very popular and at the end of the evening I won a ‘highly commended’ rosette for my trouble. The winner of the bake off was the mother of the groom for making Jo & Neil’s beautiful wedding cake, and you can’t compete with that.


My thoughts on the dobos torte: well it was rich, creamy and super chocolatey. Yes, the way I made it was labour intensive but if you follow Deb’s instructions for a rectangular cake then it’s no where near as much hassle. Without a doubt I will make this cake again, it might even become my signature birthday cake.  If you want it to become yours, you can get the Smitten Kitchen Dobos Torte recipe here.

And that just leaves me to say a huge congratulations to Jo & Neil and thank you for inviting us to join you to celebrate your wedding. May the fourth be with you!


Wedding Cake Ideas

May 4th is my cousin’s wedding day. It’s been in the diary for ages and is suddenly on the horizon. Luckily I’ve almost finished making my dress, so my next challenge is the cake. No, I don’t have to make the actual wedding cake, thank god! The pressure of making someone a wedding cake or dress would kill me. I will never do it.

Instead, inspired by the popular BBC TV show with a very similar name, Jo is hosting The Great Wedding Bake Off. The invite requests that everyone who wants to enter brings a baked pudding or cake, then everyone can try them and vote for their favourite. It’s an awesome idea and one that suggests we shouldn’t be expecting too traditional a wedding day next week!


I’ve been through pretty much all of my baking books, I’ve trawled my Pinterest boards, various blogs I follow and Googled every type of ‘celebration cake’ I could think of and here is my short list. I’m off to Band of Bakers 1st birthday party next Thursday and the theme is celebration cake, so I will get a chance to practice it before the wedding competition on the Saturday!


Top row (l-r):
1. Dobos Torte from Smitten Kitchen or Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
2. Torta Alla Gianduia from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
3. French Fraisier Cake from Food Lover’s Odyssey.

Middle row (l-r):
4. Butterscotch Nut Gateau from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
5. Swedish Prinsesstårta Cake from Donal Skehan or Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking.
6. Bitter Chocolate Orange Cake from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth.

Bottom row (l-r):
7. Pistachio Angel Cake from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
8. Gateau Moka aux Amandes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
9. Baumtorte/Baumkuchen German Tree Cake from Global Table Adventure.

Sourdough Surprises : Sourdough Chocolate & Guinness Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze

It’s time for another challenge from Sourdough Surprises – a group for bakers who want to experiment with making more than just bread with their sourdough starter. March’s challenge was cake – a challenge I’m always happy to take on.


Checking out the Sourdough Surprises Pinterest Board I immediately repinned this recipe for a sourdough chocolate cake from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I was given a bundt tin for Christmas, so this seemed as good a time as any for it’s first outing. I also did a little research on the Herman The German Friendship Cake that is doing the rounds at the moment. It’s essentially a sourdough starter maintained specifically for cake, which you’re supposed to keep splitting and passing on to friends. However the recipes didn’t seem to use the sourdough to enhance the flavour or volume as there was no resting time for it to develop, it was just added for the sake of it. It got me wondering if all those people with Herman’s living in their cupboard realise his full potential…

In the end two things heavily influenced the way I adapted the sourdough chocolate cake. #1 – I had been making a lot of stout hot cross buns, and had an open can of Guinness on the kitchen side and #2 – this recipe for Guinness brownies with a whiskey glaze cropped up in my Google Reeder (more on my heartache at the demise of Google Reader on my social media blog). I am obsessed with Guinness & chocolate cakes, I’ve made several variations in the past, one of which won me a prize at a cake competition! So it was decided, I would make a Chocolate & Guinness Bundt Cake with a Whiskey Caramel Glaze.



I refreshed my rye starter with water and white bread flour and left it for 6 hours before mixing up the cake – next time I think I’ll use Guinness at this stage as well to deepen the flavour. Then I mixed a cup of this starter with Guinness & flour and left it for 2.5 hours to ferment, you can see the before and after above. After that it was just a case of putting all the ingredients into the stand mixer to create the most bizarre consistency cake mix I have ever seen. It clearly couldn’t decide if it was dough or batter. At one point it looked a lot like blancmange, but it turns out that is no bad thing. The resulting cake was dense and moist, the Guinness isn’t so much a seperate flavour as a boost to the rich chocolate flavour.




The next day I went to make the whiskey caramel glaze, but wasn’t entirely happy with the recipe. I googled a few other caramel sauce recipes and came up with my own version. As you can see from the photos, it was still a bit runny! If you prefer your glaze thicker then keep adding icing sugar, a little at a time, until you get to a consistency you’re happy with. The glaze was to die for. I couldn’t stop eating it. I’m not ashamed to say I even spread it on toast.



Sourdough Chocolate & Guinness Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze

Makes 1 large bundt cake.
Based on the recipes for this cake and this glaze.

Cake Ingredients

1 cup sourdough starter fed approx. 6 hours ago
1 cup Guinness
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
2 large eggs

Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp double cream
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 tbsp Guinness
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup icing sugar (to reach my consistency – add more as required)

Mix together the fed starter with the Guinness & plain flour. Cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to ferment at room temperature for roughly 2.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan & grease your bundt tin with butter.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachement (or by hand), combine the caster sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder & espresso powder. Beat on a low speed to combine, and don’t worry about it being grainy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between.

Add the Guinness leaven to the batter and beat on low until well mixed. At this stage the batter goes through a range of textures (it’s very elastic!), just keep going until it’s nice and smooth. Scrape down the paddle & bowl a couple of times to make sure it’s all mixed in evenly.

Transfer the batter into the bundt tin and level the top. Bake for around 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, mine took 47 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Now for the glaze.

Combine the caster sugar with 2 tbsp water in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Stir briefly until the sugar dissolves and then leave it, any more stirring will cause sugar crystals to form and you’ll have to start again. Continue to cook until the sugar has turned a dark amber colour, keep a close watch on it as it can turn quite quickly once it gets to the right temperature.

Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter and double cream until combined. Add the whiskey, Guinness and salt, whisk and return to the heat, cooking until the caramel is smooth.

Cool the sauce for 10-15 minutes, it will still be a little warm. Using an electric mixer, or by hand add the icing sugar a bit at a time, until you get to the consistency you like, then drizzle over the bundt cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for half an hour to set the glaze, then enjoy!

Check out the other Sourdough Surprises entries here, and don’t forget – the leftover glaze is cracking on toast!

Can't get enough of the whiskey caramel sauce. #caramel #friday #love

A post shared by Lauren (@lgarland1) on

Scandi Banana Bread

I treated myself to Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen last autumn but I’ve only baked a couple of things from it so far. Having sent that I’ve learnt things just from those couple of uses. Like the delight of using spelt flour in cakes… delicious indeed.

We get our fruit and veg delivered every week from Abel & Cole which means that sometimes we get the same thing in consecutive weeks we end up with a stash that we need to use up, and that usually means that I need to find something to bake with them. Luckily, bananas are easy. This time I tried Signe’s banana bread.



It’s a super easy recipe where pretty much everything is combined in one go, using wholemeal flour, spelt flour & oats to create a really thick, comforting quick bread. Not too sweet (I’d add more syrup if you’re looking for more of a cake) it was perfect with a little butter. We demolished the first half of the loaf in about 15 mins and then forgot about it. A week later I retrieved it from the tin and aside from being a touch stale round the edges it was still delicious. It just needed a slightly thicker smear of butter. No complaints here.

Scandi-Banana-Bread-03 Scandi-Banana-Bread-04 Scandi-Banana-Bread-05 Scandi-Banana-Bread-06

Christmas Baking : A Round-Up

I’ve left it far too late to go into any real detail about my baking activity over Christmas, but I photographed everything so it seems a shame not to share at least a few with you.

The Christmas Cake

I stuck with what I knew and made Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake again this year, but this time the Christmas cake was fed for four weeks on Whyte and Mackay whisky, and smelt even more incredible this time for being fed a decent alcohol! Last year I didn’t ice my cake, but this year I decided I was going to, the only problem was I hate marzipan. Hate. But then I stumbled upon this Christmas cake recipe from Dan Lepard, where he ices it with pecan marzipan. Problem solved. The pecan marzipan was delicious, I could have eaten it totally on it’s own in quite large quantities (and did, if I’m totally honest). After the marzipan came the icing and I cut stars out of the leftover icing to decorate the top, a simple but I think beautiful finish to a classic cake.

Christmas Baking - Cake 01

Christmas Baking - Cake 02

Christmas Baking - Cake 03

Christmas Baking - Cake 04

Christmas Baking - Cake 05

Christmas Baking - Cake 06

The Christmas Pudding

I had stored this in my cupboard since I made it back in November, and then boiled it again for 3 hours on Christmas day. We flamed it with brandy because it would be rude not to, and then tucked in. I don’t normally eat Christmas pudding, but I had to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Light and soft and slightly sweet. Perfect with a dollop of extra thick double cream. It got the thumbs up from both my mother and grandmother (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mum eat so much pudding!) and my grandmother’s only criticism was that she prefers a darker, heavier pudding, but that’s just a matter of preference – I know I wouldn’t have liked it like that! I’ve still got the second pudding in the cupboard, so that’s one thing off the baking list for next Christmas!

Christmas Baking - Pudding 01

Christmas Baking - Pudding 02

The Gifts

I baked a selection of biscuits and sweets for my family & friends again for their Christmas presents. On the menu this year were Florentines, Chocolate & Hazelnut Macaroons, Pecan Marzipan Balls dipped in chocolate & Honeycomb. I was staying with my mother over Christmas and her kitchen became a bakery on the Sunday before Christmas, with biscuits and sweets on every surface. I managed to rope The Boy into helping and he became chief chocolate dipper for the Florentines, which helped speed things up rather! Once completed and cooled, I boxed the biscuits & sweets up in cardboard boxes and made them look suitably festive so they could be given away at the numerous family gatherings over the following few days!

Christmas Baking - Gifts 01

Christmas Baking - Gifts 02

Christmas Baking - Gifts 03

Christmas Baking - Gifts 04

We’re Sorry You’re Leaving Cupcakes

One of my friends at work left last week. She’d not worked with us for very long, but we’d had such a lot of fun since we started sharing an office that I’m going to miss her! I have no doubt that her leaving was definitely not goodbye, she’ll only be working a couple of tube stops away and us booze-hounds have got to stick together. She has the most incredible sweet-tooth and eats sweet things like I’ve never seen sweet things eaten before (there was a frightening instance with two chocolate bars and 30 seconds that I think will haunt me for a long while to come!), so it seemed appropriate to bake something to celebrate/commiserate her leaving.

As I mentioned before, I received a ludicrous number of cook books for Christmas and the one that’s really caught my eye is the Lily Vanilli cookbook. I love Lily’s bakery off Columbia Road & the cookbook doesn’t disappoint. It’s a beautiful book, with a great balance of basic recipes and tips and really unusual twists and flavour combinations. I thought I’d start with the first recipe in the book, a vanilla sponge, but to make it easier to transport into work I made them as cupcakes. I topped them with chocolate buttercream and honeycomb. I am totally obsessed with honeycomb at the moment. I’ve made it repeatedly over Christmas and it’s ace, (which reminds me there’s still some in the cupboard, I might need a mid blog post snack…).

Vanilla Cupcakes 01

This was a bizarre sponge recipe. First you mix the dry ingredients with the butter until it’s like a crumble mix and then you add eggs, vanilla extract & milk. I’ve never made a cake recipe using this method before, so I was intrigued to see the outcome. The result was a thick but light sponge, which one of my colleagues described as ‘like a muffin, but not as heavy’, which I think summed it up quite well. I would definitely use this method again.

Vanilla Cupcakes 02

Vanilla Cupcakes 03

Now I should get something straight: I am not a cupcake baker. I like cake. I am also not about pretty decorative cakes with lots of icing and pretty coloured sponge. I am about big flavour. So as someone who bakes as much as I do, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever piped icing onto cupcakes. What can I say, I’m normally more of a palette knife kind of girl! That’s probably a lie too. I’d probably usually just use a teaspoon or a fork.  And not only are they piped but they have decoration! The shards of honeycomb look awesome spiked into the top of the cupcakes!

Vanilla Cupcakes 04

Vanilla Cupcakes 05

Vanilla Cupcakes 06

Then. The next morning. I opened the tin and much to my horror and confusion, the honeycomb had disappeared. Gone. Disintegrated into a puddle of syrup on the cupcake! The leftover honeycomb was fine (I’m still eating it now), but all of the cake honeycomb had gone. Every piece. Luckily my friend Google is never far away, but even he wasn’t yielding many answers. Eventually I cobbled together an answer. Honeycomb disintegrates when exposed to moisture. This will happen if left out in the air, but stuck in a cake, it sucks up the moisture like no tomorrow and eventually melts. Lesson learned: honeycomb cake decoration must be added just before serving. Not the day before!

Vanilla Cupcakes 07

I love a stack of tins after a productive evening’s baking!

Cinnamon Apple Cake 01

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cake

Our Abel & Cole box has been overflowing with apples for the last few weeks, and we just haven’t managed to eat them all. As they start to get a bit too soft I move them into the fridge to make sure they don’t go bad, but we still don’t seem to be making a dent in them. For me the obvious answer to a glut of fruit is to bake with it, and when ploughing through my neglected Google Reader feed yesterday this Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Skillet Cake came up on Joy the Baker‘s blog.

Cinnamon Apple Cake 01

I already had all of the ingredients in the cupboard (bonus) and it was a really quick sponge to make, so straight away I’m a fan! I don’t really understand the current internet obsession with skillet cakes. I own plenty of cake tins, why wouldn’t I use them? So for this cake I used a 9″ springform pan. Once the mix was made, I sliced three apples into segments, as thinly as possible, and laid them in two circles on top before dusting very liberally with the cinnamon sugar.  I baked it for a little longer than specified, I think I put it in for another 8 minutes as the first time I took it out it was still very wobbly.

Cinnamon Apple Cake 03

Cinnamon Apple Cake 02

What a gorgeous cake. Delicate, soft sponge, but somehow still feels wholesome & filling. Lightly spiced and slightly sweet. Delicious. The perfect cake to go with a cup of tea. Today’s slice survived the ride into work in my backpack and was the just what I needed as a pick-me-up this afternoon.

Cinnamon Apple Cake 04


Oh and another tip, the leftover cinnamon-sugar is delicious on everything. Absolutely everything.