Tag Archives: cake

Sweeteasy…my high class drinking den with a twist

On Friday I hosted my first ever Sweeteasy, an idea I’d dreamt up to combine two of my favourite things…booze and cake! What better way to say goodbye to dry January and get February off to a flying start than being plied with a carefully devised set menu of prohibition era and cake inspired cocktails and cocktail inspired cakes, all in the wonderful setting of Hot Numbers on Gwydir Street, which we transformed into a high class drinking den for the evening…

Sweeteasy at Hot Numbers

Sweeteasy - tables all set.


Getting readyThe tables were laid, the 1st cocktail was mixed and I’d even managed to get out of my pinny for once, all that was left to do was nervously await the arrival of my guests…

Waiting for the guests to arrive

Now, keeping exciting secrets is not one of my strong points and I found it unbelievably difficult to keep the contents of the menu to myself, but somehow I managed it, my guests had no idea what treats awaited them until they arrived…

Sweeteasy menu

First on the menu was a marmalade martini, made using gin, which I had infused with my homemade 3 fruits marmalade and mixed with cointreau and fresh lemon juice…

Marmalade martini

Marmalade martini

The first sweet treat was my amaretto sour inspired macaron, sandwiched with zingy homemade lemon curd and served with cocktail cherries (one of my guilty pleasures)…

Amaretto sour macaron

I would cite my inspiration for this dessert to be the amaretto sour cocktail made by the guys at 196 on Mill Road…I highly recommend you pay them a visit and try one for yourself!

Amaretto sour macaron

The next cocktail on the menu was a hot gingerbread punch, made by infusing stout with cloves, cardamom, sugar, orange zest and fresh ginger before adding Havana Club 7yo and serving warm…in teapots and teacups natch!…


My wonderful helpers...

Hot Gingerbread punch

Pouring the hot gingerbread punch

Followed by my piece de resistance…mojito doughnuts. I used my family’s paczki (polish doughnut) recipe with a few very special twists…rum and lime zest flavoured dough, a lime filling and a rum and mint glaze…

Mojito doughnuts

Mojito doughnut

Watching my guests bite into these little beauties was the highlight of Sweeteasy for me…I looked around the room and saw everyone savouring each and every bite and nodding in approval…it absolutely made my night! They may not be the most perfect looking creations but I can vouch for the fact that they were light as air and melted in the mouth. Ozzy (@karohemd), who I would like to thank for taking such amazing photos, said that they looked and tasted exactly like the ones his Granny used to make…praise indeed!

Whilst preparing the final cocktail we brought out these plates of chocolatey goodness. Chocolate brownies with cream and a kirsch soaked cherry on the top…

Brownies & truffles

and margarita truffles made with 70% dark chocolate, tequila, lime zest and sea salt…

Margarita truffles

Brownies & truffles

which went perfectly with the Hot Numbers espresso martini…

3147_SweeteasyServing espresso martinis

Espresso martini


Vocal chords well lubricated, the conversation flowed and we were serenaded by the very talented James Brotherston on piano…


with a guest appearance from my friend Phil…

The talented Mr Phil

I’d just like to say a few special thank you’s to…

My Sweeteasy helpers Adam Shaw of Adam Shaw Couture and Carri of Pavitt’s Pies

My awesome team

Hot Numbers owner Simon Fraser for allowing me to take over his wonderful cafe for the evening, James Brotherston for tinkling those ivories, Ozzy for papping away all evening and taking such fantastic photo’s. You can see more of Ozzy’s pictures on Flickr and on his blog Karohemd’s World. And last but not least, a huge thank you to all of my lovely guests for coming along, eating and drinking with passion, getting into the spirit of Sweeteasy and making it a fantastic evening!

I’m very happy to say that I’m already plotting the next Sweeteasy for a couple of months time, so keep your eyes peeled on my blog and Twitter (#sweeteasy) for future announcements!



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My venture into Mexican baking for Nanna Mexico…

A couple of weeks ago I received a very exciting email asking if I’d be interested in becoming the ‘cake lady’ for a small but well renowned Mexican restaurant in Cambridge…Nanna Mexico.

Since it opened in 2005, Nanna Mexico has built a name for itself amongst Cambridge food lovers and students alike (not that students aren’t food lovers ;). Owner, Luis, has brought the fresh and vibrant flavours of Mexico to the streets of Cambridge and is passionate about providing ‘a healthy, affordable and delicious alternative to traditional fast foods.’ Their Big Ass Burrito is particularly revered! If you’re mouth is watering at the thought, you should check their menu out here.

So, not having yet ventured into the realms of Mexican baking, I set about some serious research and cake trials. I spent a very happy Monday testing a Tres Leches cake…a sponge cake that has a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and double cream drizzled over it as soon as it’s taken out of the oven, so wrong it’s right!…

a densely gooey mango and cardamom cake…

and a traditional Pan de Elote or sweetcorn cake to you and me :)…

I know it sounds a bit strange but believe me, the combo of pureed sweetcorn and condensed milk is a real winner and creates a deliciously sweet, moist cake.

I packed up a sample box of my cakes and took them to Luis for a taste test…

I was really interested to hear his feedback and to find out whether I’d passed the Mexican cake test. I watched nervously as he tried all three cakes and was extremely relieved to see his face break into a smile. I was even happier to hear that the flavours took him right back to his youth and the cakes his Grandma used to make!

The Pan de Elote was his favourite and it’s the first cake that I’ll be supplying to Nanna Mexico, this very afternoon!

It may not be your usual Viccy sponge but why not be adventurous and try a slice of traditional Mexican cake to satisfy that sweet craving after your burrito or quesadilla?

Each week I’ll be making a new cake, some will be traditional Mexican numbers and some will be British classics with a Mexican twist…that’s all I’m going to say for now…it’s good to keep you guessing!

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Halloween baking: mini spiced pumpkin & chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

Now, if I’m honest I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Being a complete scaredy cat isn’t particularly conducive to any sort of Halloween activity. However, I love an excuse for some good old themed baking and made it my mission to use the pumpkins that arrived recently in my veg box to do just that!…

I find that pumpkins are a lot less tasty than their butternut squash brethren and need a lot of spice/ cream/ sugar adding to make them taste of anything at all, which set me another challenge, to find a recipe that does justice to the humble pumpkin.

After a bit of online trawling, I found a couple of tasty sounding recipes which called for pumpkin puree. So, I set about making my pumpkins into puree…

To do this you need to halve your pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and throw them away. Place the empty pumpkin halves face down on a baking tray…

Bake it at 180 degrees for 45 mins to 1 hour until soft (you can test whether they’re ready by inserting a knife into the skin, it should slide in with no resistance)…

Let them cool a bit before scooping the flesh into a bowl…

You need just 1 cup’s worth for this recipe but I recommend measuring the remaining pumpkin puree into cup portions and popping it in bags or containers in the freezer for next time you fancy a bit of baking.

Now the first time I made this recipe I followed advice on the ‘how to cook good food’ blog and used dark brown sugar and added a tablespoon of rum along with chocolate chips and the results were divine…a deliciously moist loaf cake with a subtle rum kick…what’s not to like!

In my mission to theme it up even more I decided to make the recipe into cupcakes.

To make 1 loaf cake or 12-14 cupcakes you’ll need…

1 cup (240ml) pumpkin puree

120ml sunflower oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin or line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases in preparation.

Mix the cooled pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and spices together. I used an electric mixer but it would definitely be easy enough to do by hand.

Sift in the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda and mix until it’s all combined but be careful not to over mix. Finally add the chocolate chips (and 1 tbsp rum if you’re feeling frivolous :).

Pour the cake mixture into the loaf tin or fill each cupcake cake until two thirds full and pop in the oven.

The loaf will take 50 minutes to 1 hour and the cupcakes will only take about 30 minutes. You can check whether they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean it’s ready. If not, pop it back in for a few minutes before checking again.

When your cake(s) are ready leave them to cool on a wire rack…

I used orange cupcake cases and decided I was going to turn my cupcakes into mini pumpkins by topping them with an orange coloured cream cheese icing…

To make the cream cheese icing you need…

450g icing sugar, sifted

75g butter, softened

200g cream cheese

Food colouring

Beat all of the icing ingredients together well and add as much or as little colour as you wish to get your desired effect. Then transfer the icing into an icing bag (I use disposable wonders, which are available in all good supermarkets) and using a large star shaped icing nozzle, swirl the icing onto the top of your cupcake. I finished my pumpkins off with a stalk made out of a chunk of dark chocolate.

And there you have them, the cutest little spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

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Afternoon Tease does retro…

Last night I summoned my inner ‘retro’ and set up an Afternoon Tease stall of retro baked delights at Cambridge Retro Disco, a fundraising event for Cambridge Folk Museum, organised by the lovely Caroline (@Cambridgelass)…

I’d had a lot of fun coming up with retro sweet treats and desserts for the disco go-ers to enjoy.

My menu comprised of party rings, lots and lots of party rings (recipe here)…

and I decided that this was the ONLY way to serve them…

Cherry bakewell puddings with cream and a cherry on the top :)…

(Bakewell pudding recipe here)

Black Forest eclairs filled with homemade chocolate custard and black cherries, based on a recipe from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

and finally lemon meringue cupcakes, lemon sponge with a lemon curd centre, topped with meringue…

Before the dancing and cake eating commenced I had a chance to sit down and enjoy a pie and mash dinner from Pavitt’s Pies of Cambridge

I’d opted for the beef and ale pie, made using ale from local brewer Moonshine Brewery. It was totally delicious and served up in true retro dinner lady style by Carri Pavitt herself…

My outfit paled in comparison but I had dug out my silver trousers and hoop earrings :)…

The dancing kicked of pretty early with the help of some awesome tunes from Shake ‘n’ Soul and other DJ’s…

It was a great night and even better because it was all for such a good cause! Thanks to all who came and contributed!

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Chocolate beetroot cake…1 of your 5 a day…

I’ve recently made it my mission to seek out and trial some new chocolate cake recipes…it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it 🙂

One recipe recce led me to this little chocolate and beetroot number on the Delicious Magazine website. To date I haven’t baked a cake using beetroot but if the success of using carrot in a cake is anything to go by I thought it was worth a try and either way, I’d definitely be getting one of my five a day :). 

I’m happy to report that the recipe was a good’un and produced the most amazingly moist chocolate cake. The only hint that it contained beetroot was when I came across little pockets of sweetness whilst tucking in.

Just check out that crumb…

If you fancy giving it a go yourself you need…

250g plain chocolate (I used 70%)

3 eggs

200g light brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

250g raw beetroot

For the icing you need…

150g plain chocolate

100g icing sugar

100g soured cream

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (180 if it’s not a fan) and grease and line the base of a 20cm or 22cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper. I used a 20cm tin, so if you’re using the larger size just bear in mind that it won’t need quite as long in the oven.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt. When it’s smooth remove the pan from the heat and set the bowl aside to cool.

Put the eggs, sugar and oil into a large bowl and beat using a hand held or stand mixer until smooth and creamy (approx 3 mins).

Stir in the vanilla extract and sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and gently fold in, along with the ground almonds. 

I highly recommend donning a pair of rubber gloves for the next stage as beetroot has the nasty habit of staining your hands bright pink!

First you need to peel them (aren’t they pretty!?)…

and then grate them…

before squeezing the excess liquid out. 

Now, fold the beetroot into your cake mixture along with the cooled melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated…

All that’t left to do it pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin…

The recipe says to bake it for 50 minutes to 1 hour, however I recommend checking it after about 45 minutes and testing it by inserting a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not then just pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then test it again. Repeat this process until you are happy that your cake is cooked to perfection! If you notice that your cake is browning a little too quickly just cover it loosely with some tin foil.

Leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing it from the tin and letting it cool completely.

To make the icing, break 150g plain chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt, as before. Once smooth, set it aside to cool before beating in the sifted icing sugar and soured cream until you have a thick and creamy but spreadable icing. Don’t over-beat it! The first time I made it I think I overdid it and was left with icing that just wanted to set quite quickly and was hard to spread. When you’re happy with it’s consistency (it should look like the pic below) spread it over the top and sides of your cake…

I took my cake into work to test on my colleagues and I have to say…it went down a treat!

My Riverford veg box arrived,whilst I was writing this post and I was very excited to dicover that it contained a good few beetroots…I know what I’m going to be making again this week!

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Orange cake with zingy orange buttercream filling & an orange glaze…

Sometimes the simple cakes are the best…here’s one I made recently using my classic Victoria sponge recipe but putting a little orangey spin on it with inspiration from The Primrose Bakery Book. Behold my orange sponge with zingy orange buttercream filling and an orange glaze…

To make the cake you need…

350g unsalted butter, softened

350g caster sugar

6 eggs

350g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

Zest of 2 oranges

Splash of milk

For the zingy buttercream filling you need…

125g unsalted butter, softened

150g icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

zest of half an orange

and finally for the orange glaze to top your cake off you need…

200g icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (180 if not a fan) and grease and line the bases of 2 x 8 inch cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs along with a little of the sifted flour and baking powder, so that that mixture doesn’t curdle. Add the remaining flour and baking powder and mix well.

Stir in the orange zest. At this point you need to use your judgement and if you feel that the cake mixture’s looking a bit thick, add a splash of milk until it’s smooth and of thick dropping consistency.

Divide the mixture between the 2 cake tins as evenly as possibly, level the tops and pop them in the oven.

Check on your cakes after 30 minutes by inserting a skewer into the centre of them, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not, pop them back in and check them after another 5 minutes.

As a slight aside, I recently invested in an oven thermometer and it’s changed my life! That sounds rather melodramatic but to be honest it’s definitely been worth the £5 (ish) investment. It turns out that my oven is 10 degrees hotter than the dial would have me believe and as well acquainted as I am with it, I know that the back left hand corner is hotter than the rest. I think this is a good time to say…my name’s Jo and I’m a baking addict 🙂

Right, back to the orange cake…when you’re happy that it’s cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

To make the orange buttercream icing sift the icing sugar into a big bowl and add the softened butter, orange juice and zest, prepare yourself for the inevitable icing sugar snow storm and beat well until smooth and fluffy.

To make the orange glaze simply add the orange juice to the icing sugar and stir well until lump free.

Now, it’s time to get assembling…sandwich the cakes together with the buttercream and top with the glaze, it’s as easy as that!…

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Plum, almond & ricotta cake…

It’s British plum season, which in my book, is very good news! I grew up with a Victoria plum tree in my garden and spent many an early Autumn roped into picking its ripe fruit. They run rings around the tasteless supermarket, year round varieties! If you can get your hands on some gorgeous British plums, then I highly recommend that you give this plum, almond & ricotta cake a go…

It’s amazingly moist due to the inclusion of ground almonds in the cake batter and has a seam of plum jam running through the middle. I unfortunately had to resort to shop bought plum jam, luckily Bon Maman does a good one, but if you’re super organised you could make your own jam too.

I bought these beauties from Polly at Urban Larder and then returned within a few hours with the finished cake for her counter :)…

To make it you’ll need…

250g pot of ricotta

140g butter, melted

4 eggs

225g caster sugar plus 1tbsp for the top of the cake

250g SR Flour

200g ground almonds

4 tbsp plum or apricot jam

5 plums, quartered

Handful of flaked almonds, toasted

Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and grease and line the bottom of an 8 inch/ 20cm cake tin.

Beat together the ricotta, melted butter, eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Fold in the flour and ground almonds and that’s your cake batter made…easy!

Spoon half of the cake mix into the prepared tin. Blob the jam out as evenly as possible over the surface…

and then cover with the remaining batter. Carefully smooth the top and arrange your plum halves on the top, before sprinkling with sugar…

Bake for 1 and a half hours until the cake is golden and the plums have started to caramelise…

Leave it to cool for a few minutes before removing it from the tin and letting it cool completely. For the finishing touches, scatter the toasted almonds over the top of the cake, dust with icing sugar and there you have it, a delicious autumnal cake…

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