Rock cakes

After baking what could be called the worst cookies in history (so wrong they ended up in the bin) I decided to go back to basics and cook one of the first things I ever learnt to bake. The recipe I used is from The River Cottage Handbook series No.8 Cakes. A fabulously old fashioned book with all you need to know about baking cakes and biscuits.

It seems to be a pretty forgiving recipe too, (always a good thing) as I only had a medium egg left in the house, I topped up the liquid with a dash of milk. I also substituted all white self raising flour instead of half white, half wholemeal as detailed below. The end result are yummy but not quite as healthy as they could have been.

Here then is this lovely, fabulously kid friendly recipe.


  • 100g white self raising flour
  • 100g wholemeal self raising flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 100g unsalted butter cut into cubes
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 175g raisins
  • finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange
  • 1 large egg – beaten

You will also need a couple of baking trays that you either line with baking parchment or lightly grease.


  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 5.
  • In a bowl put your flour, salt and butter. Rub them together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Then you can mix in your brown sugar, raisins and orange zest. Use a fork to combine them.
  • Add your beaten egg and then bring the mix together into a dough. Get stuck in with your hands if you like, to be honest that is the easiest way of mixing this dough.
  • On your prepared baking sheets put 4 dollops of dough on each, spaced well apart. They don’t have to be neat shapes, in fact the nobblier the better in my opinion. Just keep them similar in size as this makes for a more even bake.
  • Pop them into the oven for between 15 and 20 minutes. You know your oven best, mine took 25 minutes to finish these to a lovely golden brown that was firm to touch. When you pull them out of the oven, leave them to cool a little on the trays before you transfer to a cooling rack.
  • According to the book these keep three days!! Best eaten fresh though. Yum.



Bread, bread, glorious bread!

Although cakes really are my passion, lately I have been rediscovering the joys of bread making. I have been making bread on and off for years but not really regularly. Well, since the addition to my kitchen appliances of a food  mixer with a dough hook, all the hard work has been removed and left me with all the fun bits.

A firm favourite at the moment is a recipe gleaned from the latest River Cottage offering Veg. In the bready things section the first recipe you come across is the one for magic bread dough. It is indeed magic as well as easy, very forgiving and tasty. Can’t really ask much more from home made bread but as an added bonus it keeps really well, which means I can make them on a Sunday night and the kids can take in for packed lunches for a couple of days.

Right on we go


  • 250g plain white flour
  • 250g strong white flour
  • 1 and a half level teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon easy blend dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 325ml warm water

N.B I usually add around 8 – 10g salt and 5 – 7 g yeast. As my teaspoons are various sizes it just made sense to me to weigh these ingredients but the above is true to Hugh’s recipe in the book.


  • If you are using a food mixer with a dough hook put the water in the bowl first and then the dry ingredients. It mixes more easily for you. Once the ingredients start coming together drizzle in your oil. Set your mixer to the slowest setting and then leave it to knead your dough until it is silky and smooth which will take around 10 minutes.
  •  If you are mixing this by hand then put your dry ingredients in first and then add the water and oil. I use a dinner knife first to give this a good mix. Once it starts coming together you will have to get stuck in with your hands. It is messy but very very satisfying to take out the days stresses on a lump of dough. Be as aggressive as you like, the dough will reward you by becoming silky smooth. Don’t worry if it seems sticky, this is a good thing and the more you knead the dough the less sticky it becomes.
  • Once you are happy with your dough  you will need to leave it in a bowl which you can cover with cling film. I usually use a shower cap as they fit perfectly and are so easy to put on and take off. You can pick these up really cheaply on eBay. Leave your dough in a cozy corner to prove itself for at least an hour and it will double in size beautifully.
  • Once it has done this tip it out onto your floured surface and knock it back.
  • Now you can be as creative as you like, this dough makes fab breadsticks and rolls as pictured below, but you can use it to make flatbreads and pizzas too or as Hugh suggests an ordinary white loaf.
As a rough guide for breadsticks use walnut sized pieces of dough and then roll them out into your breadsticks. Pop them onto a lightly oiled baking tray and leave to prove again for 15 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Once your dough sticks have proven themselves like the good little soldiers they are, pop them into the ove for around 15 minutes until golden brown. Then try and stop the kids eating them as soon as they come out of the oven!
For the bread rolls, divide your dough into balls around the size of an apple and pop these onto a prepared baking tray. Leave these to prove themselves for around an hour. They should double in size. Once they have achieved their goal size pop them into a slightly hotter oven (220 degrees C) and bake for between 15 and 25 minutes. You know your oven the best. The rolls need to be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on their bottoms.
Happy Baking my lovlies,


Variety pack of yummy treats

A very sad day last week for myself and several colleagues who were made redundant. I was one of the lucky ones and managed to secure another post at the same organisation ( only 2 days a week but should give me more time to bake – YAY positive side )Image

In celebration of all my amazing colleagues ( two of whom have set up a fab new venture ) I decided to make a selection of yummy treats. Some of my cakes were prettier than others. The Lemon drizzle cupcakes look very sad really but taste so scrumptious I ate 4 before I even got to work. ( I will never be a size 12 again 😦 )

I have posted the recipe for the Millionaires Shortbread before so no need to repeat. The other cakes are both versions of a basic vanilla cupcake recipe, in fact they are based on my Mums original 4,4,4 and 2 recipe which you can find on my home page

Lemon drizzle fairy cakes.


  • 1 batch of 4,4,4,2 fairy cakes. This makes either 16 small traditional fairy cakes as shown above or 9 muffin sized cupcakes.
  • 1 lemon
  • about 50g icing sugar but more or less according to how much of a sweet tooth you have.
  • a skewer or cocktail stick

While your fairy cakes are baking, put the juice of your lemon and the icing sugar into a teeny saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. This only takes moments.

When your cakes are cooked, pull them out of the oven and using a skewer puncture the little cakes all over so that you can then gently spoon on the lemon syrup which will then soak in. This needs to be done as soon as they come out of the oven. Leave your cakes to cool in the baking tin. I was a little impatient removing mine and the cases came away from the cases, not very pretty. They still taste yummy though.

Summer Fruits cupcakes.


  • 1 batch of 4,4,4,2 fairy cakes. This makes either 16 small traditional fairy cakes as shown above or 9 muffin sized cupcakes
  • one 300ml carton of double or whipping cream
  • icing sugar to taste
  • vanilla extract or paste. ( I prefer the paste )
  • fruits of your choice – I used raspberries and blueberries.

This time you need to make sure your cakes are cooled as the cream topping won’t sit well on hot cakes.

Whip your cream and vanilla extract until it is just holding it’s shape. Careful with this as cream thickens all of a sudden. Then with a hand whisk mix in some icing sugar if you like. I like the flavour of this with the vanilla and cream plus it seems to hold it’s shape better especially if your cakes are being iced a few hours beforehand. Once you are happy with this place your mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then pipe your swirls onto your cakes. Pop your fruits on and then lightly dust the cakes with icing sugar. Gorgeous.