Baking · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge · South America

Bolivia: Chocolate and Coconut Cupcakes

English: State flag of Bolivia, from the xrmap...

Back to the country cakes, today we are moving continents, over to South America. Two very important ingredients in Bolivian Cuisine are chocolate and coconut, and as these make a brilliant duo, it seemed to be a easy combination to do. Therefore these chocolate coconut cupcakes were born. They are very quick to make and really hit the spot when you just need that chocolate fix!

Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes

To be really authentic, these cupcakes should be made with top quality chocolate and coconut, and the best cocoa powder you can afford. However, it will also taste good when made with good quality chocolate and dessicated coconut, so whatever you have will do!

Chocolate and Coconut Cupcakes


  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2oz dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300g double cream
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut, to decorate.


Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and line a cupcake tray. Cream together the butter and sugar before adding in the eggs and mixing well. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat well, before finally mixing in the vanilla essence. Spoon in the cupcake liners and bake for 30 minutes until risen and firm. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate ganache by melting the chocolate in a bain-marie and then stirring in the double cream. Once completely combined, leave to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until thickened.

Spoon a small amount of ganache onto each cupcake, and swirl slightly with the spoon. Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with extra dessicated coconut. Store in the refrigerator once iced and eat within 3 days.

Baking · Cake

Pear and Pecan Cake (or ‘How I Nearly Killed a Wooden Spoon with a Food Processor)

Good afternoon blogging world. Long time no see.

The reason for this lack of contact is one I’m sure that many foodies face at some point – nothing I’ve tried out really worked. Apart from the very boring chocolate vanilla cupcakes I made for my string group, the other cake (a coffee-turkish delight combination which I’ll be posting about later) had some very mixed results. Whilst the school students loved them (and ate them all in about 10 seconds flat!), Max was not so impressed and said that they tasted savoury… not a good comment for a a sweet cupcake! Back to the drawing board with them.

Parsnip cake

Instead I present this cake, which met with very favourable results. I will say now that this recipe is completely someone else’s invention, coming from the wonderful cookbook Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood. Someone else’s it might be, but it is still very good. The secret ingredient in this cake is parsnip, grated and mixed into the batter in a method similar to that of a carrot cake.

parsnip cake 2

Making this cake also gave me the excuse to finally find out how the grating attachment on my Kenwood mixer works. This led to a slightly difficult moment when I tried to push the parsnip down with a wooden spoon – fine until the spoon hit the grating attachment. I’m sure you can imagine the rest. Poor wooden spoon.

Pear and Pecan Cake


  • 3 small pears
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 150g pecans
  • 150g white rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved and the seeds removed
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 200g finely grated parsnip
  • 125ml calvados (or if like me this is beyond your local community, cloudy apple juice also works)
  • Icing sugar (to decorate)


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Grease and line a 23cm diameter springform tin and set aside.

Peel, core and thinly slice the pears, before sprinkling with lemon juice and setting aside. Grind the pecans in a food processor until very fine, then add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon and whizz for another minute until completely combined.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and tripled in volume, before adding in the grated parsnip and the dry ingredients. Mix completely before adding in the Calvados/apple juice to loosen the mixture. Pour half the mixture into the tin and top with half the sliced pears. Pour the remaining mixture over the top and top with the remainder of the pears, arranging them into a pretty floral pattern. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 2 hours. You have read this right, 2 hours. Take it out of the oven and serve with vanilla ice cream.89

Baking · Cake · Pastry

The Hartlepool Townie

You’ve heard of cronuts, the doughnut-croissant hybrid right? Well, over the last few months it has been toppled from its lofty pastry perch by no less than a British contender! Yes, that’s right, BRITISH! We may have been beaten to the front by the cupcake, the doughnut and the elusive cronut itself, but we won this one!

Townie 1

And boy, what a one to win!, Whilst the cronut is like a chinese takeway – something you eat once in a blue moon and which your weight does NOT thank you for later! – the townie is the Italian buffet, the delicious meal that you finish and can’t wait for the next. I can’t promise it will make you feel any less fat, but at least it’s not deep fried.

townie 3

The original townie was made in London by Bea Vo of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, after a request to create as many rival mash-up pastries as possible. However, as with many of these things, the recipe is a closely guarded secret, so I decided to make my own version, by combining my favourite recipes for the various components. The pastry is taken from the queen herself (Delia Smith), whilst the brownies are originally a Jamie Oliver recipe. Whilst made as a large tart, you could also make smaller, muffin-sized versions as per the original – just fill greased muffin tins with a circle of pastry and fill with the brownie mix.

Townie 2

Whilst the basic tart is delicious on its own, I also tried out a version with added toppings – more ideas to follow…

The Hartlepool Townie


Sweet Pastry:

  • 90g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 3 free range egg yolks
  • 200g plain flour


  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 80g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 60g self raising flour, sifted
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 1 orange


First make the pastry by creaming together the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until fully combined. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and briefly knead until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Grease and flour a 10in loose-bottomed flan tin. Place the pastry over the top and press into the corners to fill the tin. Fill the tin with baking beans or rice (you may find it easier to place a piece of tinfoil over the pastry first) and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the brownie mix. Melt the butter and chocolate over a bain marie (a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) and stir until smooth. Stir in the nuts. In a separate bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together, before adding to the chocolate mixture, spoonful by spoonful. Finally, mix in the eggs one at the time, beating well until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case (having removed the beans/rice first!) and bake in the oven for 25 minutes (still at gas mark 4) until the brownie mixture is cooked. Remember that brownie mixtures will still by squidgy when completely baked, so don’t worry if it’s still sticky! Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing into wedges and serving with whipped cream and berries if desired (or if you are me, eating wedge after wedge from the fridge…)


Raspberry and Avocado Smoothie

I am a self-confessed gadget geek. This stretches to many things in my life, but most especially to my kitchen. Lakeland is a particular danger zone for me – whilst I can go clothes shopping and come away with nothing, put me in Lakeland and I could spend up. One of my most recent purchases was a smoothie maker, and this has got me very excited, and all in the name of healthy eating! A win-win situation!

Raspberry Avocado Smoothie

This particular recipe was my first attempt of a smoothie and it was a great success! Only four ingredients, and it makes 2 large smoothies – great for making first thing in the morning. If you do not have a smoothie maker, just use a food processor.

Raspberry Avocado Smoothie


  • 1 avocado
  • 3/4 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup of raspberry juice (cranberry juice would also work
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries.


Remove the flesh from the avocado and place in the blender. Add the frozen raspberries, raspberry juice and orange juice, and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve.


Butternut Squash, Ginger and Orange Soup

Some of the posts here are going to be taking a more savoury turn over the next few weeks. Sadly not out of choice, but lets face it – being on a diet and running a cake blog are not two things that fit well together. Cakes are still going to be on the menu regularly, but I wanted to also start trying to chronicle some of the more healthy new recipes that I am trying out. This first soup was a welcome addition to my repertoire, and promises to be a great winter warmer, especially now autumn is drawing close!

butternut squash soup

The soup is taken from the Covent Garden Soup Co.’s A Soup for Everyday. This recipe serves four, but can be easily halved to serve 2 people, as I tried today. It is especially delicious served with the soda bread posted last time, particularly when both are fresh and hot!

Butterbut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash, Orange and Ginger Soup


  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • a pinch of ground ginger
  • 565ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml orange juice


Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the butternut squash and ginger and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring to avoid the mixture sticking and burning. Add the stock and orange juice before bringing to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes until the squash is tender.

Pour the mixture into a blender (I used my smoothie maker) and blend until smooth. Return to the pan and heat gently, seasoning as necessary before serving. To serve, swirl a little cream onto the top of the soup and sprinkle with toasted squash or pumpkin seeds, alongside fresh soda bread.


Baking · Bread

Ireland: Soda Bread

English: Irish Flag

You know those days when you start to make a recipe, find you don’t have half the ingredients in your cupboard, but make it anyway, adapting as you go? This was one of those recipes. The original recipe was by Oliver Peyton (from his book British Baking), however, it asked for wholemeal flour and buttermilk, neither of which I had in my possession. I started by substituting plain bread flour, until I ran out andhad to top it up with self raising flour – not ideal. For the buttermilk, I had read that you could substitute milk soured by lemon juice. Al well and good until I looked in the cupboard to find only lime juice. Again, not ideal.

Soda Bread

However aside from that, the recipe worked well and was a great success – the photos attest to that, it was eaten far too quickly! It is delicious both on its own with butter, or as an accompaniment to my butternut, ginger and orange soup (coming up in the next post!) Enjoy!

Soda Bread


  • 500g strong plain flour (or if you are like me, any variation on this!)
  • 140g porridge oats
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 500ml buttermilk OR 500ml milk soured with 1 tbsp lemon juice


Preheat eh oven to gas mark 8 and line a flat baking tray with tinfoil. Mix the dry ingredients together and make a small impression in the centre of the bowl. Pour in the buttermilk and use your hands to mix the dough. Once it has come together, Turn out the dough onto a floured worksurface and shape into a round loaf. Place on the baking tray and score with a large cross. Bake in to oven for 20 minutes before turning down the oven to gas mark 6 and baking fora further 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack. This bread is best served hot with butter.

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Slovenia: Potica

Flag of Slovenia

Sometimes the problems with trying to make a cake specific to a country is that the country has so much variety in the different regions that this is pretty much impossible. Slovenia is a good example of this – according to Wikipedia, the country is split into 23 different culinary regions. As a result, you are never going to find a cake/dessert that is representative of the whole country, so all I can really say is that this cake is a very famous one from the Slovenian country.

Potica 1

Potica is a form of nut roll, very popular though the Balkan countries, and one that has migrated to America, becoming very popular there as well. This recipe features the traditional nut filling, however these can also be filled with chocolate, poppy seed, cottage cheese and more peculiarly, leek and tarragon. The cake is made by first make a dough, which is stretched out very thin. A layer of the nut filling is spread on the cake, before the cake is rolled up tightly. Traditionally (as here) the cake is rolled and placed in a round tin to bake, however it is also possible to bake the cake as a roll.

This recipe is taken from the website of the Slovene National Benefit Society.



  • 2oz instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cups butter
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 7 cups plain flour
  • 2 pounds walnuts, chopped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1-1/2 cups of mlk
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


Dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the sugar, before leaving for 10 minutes. Heat the milk and add the butter to the pan, stirring and then allowing to cool. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla essence until pale and thick. Mix the egg and yeast mixtures with 3 cups of sifted flour, adding the rest of the flour until the mixture is no longer sticky. Knead the dough for 15 minutes, adding more flour if needed to ensure that it doesn’t become sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about two hours. ( if like me, you have a cold house not suited to rising bread, preheat your oven, turn it off and allow the bread to rise in the residual heat).

Melt the butter before adding milk, sugar and honey. Raise the heat to the boil and pour the mixture over the chopped walnuts, adding the vanilla and grated citrus peel. Stir to combine completely and allow to cool. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then fold into the cold nut mixture.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and grease a loaf tin. Roll out the dough very thinly, before spreading the cooled filling over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Start to roll up the dough,stretching slightly with each roll. Once the dough has been fully rolled up, cut the dough to the appropriate length before placing in the ring tin, sealing the ends more completely by pulling the ends down and underneath the roll. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about one hour. Bake for 1 hour until golden brown.