Category Archives: Baking

How to Line Cake Pans

This isn’t an exciting recipe, I’m afraid, but if we dedicate some time to learn how to do the essentials well, we can save a lot of time for baking lovely cakes. 

how to bake

I tend to use two 9 inch round cake pans  when I’m baking a cake, letting each sponge cook more evenly and for less time than a single deeper round cake, plus you can sandwich them together with something delicious. Although there is of course a time and place for a single deep cake (Christmas cake, for example, or a bundt) but this will make you a Victoria sponge, a chocolate cake, a carrot cake…all of those good ones.
 uses for greaseproof paper 

So you will need, your cake pans, grease proof paper, a pencil, a pair of scissors, some butter and either the paper the butter comes in, a pastry brush or a piece of kitchen roll.  Or you can buy a packet of these (at huge expense) but you’ll still need the butter. how do you line cake tins 
  Roll out a little of the greaseproof paper, set one of the cake pans on top. how do you line cake pans 
 Draw around the base. baking hints and tips 
  To give you this circle guide. how to prepaee cake tins 
Cut out the circle. Try to keep inside the line to stop you leaving any ink or pencil on the paper which will be cooked up against sponge. how to make cake pan liners
 And this is what you’ll be left with. Repeat with the other to grease bakeware
 Rub a butter paper, piece of kitchen roll or pastry brush against some to grease cake pans 
 Use it to rub butter all over the bottom and sides of each cake pan. how to grease cake tins 
 Not too much, not too little, just enough to make sure the sponges will turn out if the pans easily. how to line cane tins  Set the paper circles into the pans, then grease them too. And there you have it: all ready to fill with delicious cake batter!

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake

Call me crazy, but I occasionally get an unarguable hankering to bake. Often it’s a need to bake generally, sometimes it’s a particular type of baking I’m craving, such as bread or biscuits, and sometimes, more rarely, I wake up in the morning thinking “I want to make a chocolate bundt cake today” so that’s just what I did!

I reckon if you’re going to go for a chocolate cake, it has to be the most chocolatey creation you can imagine, so this one is triple chocolate with a real chocolate sponge filled with chocolate chips, topped with rich chocolate ganache and garnished with grated chocolate (so technically, it’s quadruple chocolate!). You can of course leave the grated chocolate off, or replace with sprinkles or chocolate curls if you would prefer.

To make this just as chocolatey and bundty as I did, you will need:

110g good quality dark chocolate, I use the £1 bars from Tesco usually, which have 70% cocoa solids. 

175g salted butter, at room temperature

60g soft light brown sugar 

110g caster sugar

4 large eggs

30g cocoa powder

pinch salt 

200g self-raising flour 

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp milk

3 handfuls chocolate chips (I used half a packet of Tesco White chocolate chips and some chopped dark chocolate)

For the topping:

100ml double cream

50g dark chocolate 

And you’ll need one of these – a bundt tin:

 how to bake with a bundt tinA bundt tin is essentially a ring-shaped tin with patterned sides to give you a beautiful all in one cake, which looks quite the picture on your kitchen or dining room table. You can make all sorts of plain, iced or glazed bundts, and they’re perfect for when you want to make something pretty without going to the effort of sandwiching sponges together. If you don’t have a bundt tin, the sponge will work well divided by two and sandwiched with extra ganache or buttercream, or you could bake it in a loaf tin instead.  how to line a bundt tin
 1. Preheat the oven to 170c fan, making sure the shelf is nice and low to give you space to settle the deep tin in the middle of the oven. Prepare the bundt tin by buttering liberally (to get into all the flutes you might be better using a pastry brush or paper towel to do this) and coating the buyer with cocoa powder to give your tin some extra non-stick credentials.

2. If you don’t have a microwave, set a glass bowl over a little boiling water in a saucepan, set to a simmer and break the chocolate into the bowl. Let it do its own thing until starting to melt, then stir, leave and stir again until all melted then set aside. Don’t let the bowl touch the water and don’t let any water in the bowl.

If using a microwave, put the chocolate into a microwave-friendly bowl and heat for 10 or 20 seconds at a time, remove, stir and repeat until melted. Too hot or too long and it will burn and be unusable.

  triple chocolate cake recipe 

3. Whisk up the soft butter with an electric whisk until light, then weigh in the two sugars, before whisking again for a good few minutes until combined and creamy. I find it helpful to have a silicone spatula to hand to keep pushing the ingredients down the sides into the belly of the bowl. 

incorporating 4 eggs into a cake batter

4. Next, the eggs. The more air we can get into the cake at this stage, the less likely it is that the cake will go wrong or come out tough. So, with that in mind, slowly combine the eggs by cracking them in one at a time, then whisking them in to the creamed butter and sugar. The first egg will loosen the mixture considerably, and by the time all of the eggs are in, the mixture will be quite runny. 

 tips for a light sponge 

5. Give the batter another long whisk until it’s really light and airy, then fold in the cocoa powder and then the melted chocolate.

combining the chocolate into the cake batter 

6. Add the salt, flour, baking powder and milk and gently fold until just combined, being careful not to knock the air out of it. Fold in the chocolate chips.

 how to make a chocolate cake
7. Don’t freak out when you see the thickness of the batter, just spoon it evenly into the tin. Don’t worry about spreading it out; the oven will do that for you. 
 chocolate bundt cake recipe 

8. Put in the oven and have a peek after about 25 minutes. It will spread, rise, crack then bake fully. Once it’s starting to look like this, give it a gentle press. If it’s springy it’s done, but if it’s soft leave it in. Mine took about 35 minutes but it will depend on your oven. If you’re nervous you can check if it’s done by inserting a skewer through it gently. If it’s clean when removed, it’s ready, if there are gooey traces put it back in for 5 or 10 minutes.

 bundt cake recipe 

 9. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes or so until it’s starting to shrink and cool then gently loosen the edges (in and out) with a knife. Put a large plate, cake board or cake stand over the top, flip and carefully set down. The tin should lift off relatively easily. If not, flip, ease with the knife again and flip back to try again. If you’re still struggling, leave it to cool for a little while before trying again.

what should i bake today

10. Time to make the ganache! This is so much easier than the professionals make it sound! Pour the cream into a small saucepan and set on a low to medium hob. Let the cream warm up but don’t let it boil. Break the chocolate up and put it straight into the cream, stir until melted, mixed glossy and beautiful. 

11. Set it aside and allow it to cool down a bit, stirring every now and then to check the texture. When it’s a bit firmer to the point where it will drop rather than run off the spoon, it’s ready to spread on your cake. If it’s still running off the spoon, it will run straight off the cake.

how to make ganache  

 12. Spread the ganache evenly over the highest point of the cake ring, allowing it to drop down the sides as naturally as you are able – as you can see, it needs to have a little bit of setness about it to give you that irresistible effect – overflowing but going no further. 
 how to ice a bundt cake 

13. Grate more chocolate over the top or decorate however you wish. Serve immediately or allow to set fully, and be sure to lick the spoon once you’re finished! how to decorate a bundt cake 

This will keep nicely for a few days in an airtight container. If you have any left once it’s starting to go stale, slice and warm it in the microwave – the ganache will melt, the sponge will soften – and serve as a pudding with cream or ice cream. 

Simple Granary Loaf

There have been a great many things written about bread. Historically, that it is the most basic, humble foodstuff for feeding your family. Yet, recently, it has become the enemy. Bread: the most widely available source of that dreaded carb. Even I, in my quest for a wedding day figure, have started to see bread as an aggressor – a temptation which guarantees to widen the hips and bloat the belly. But, when we cut through the white noise, the gluten-free propaganda, the debate isn’t really about bread itself, but about the quality and source of the bread we’re eating. 

  how to make granary bread 

So, let’s reduce the quantity, yes, everything in moderation, but increase the quality. The price and the freshness, in fact, of real quality bread will actually help to reduce the quantity you eat, in my opinion, especially if you make your own. It’s not an easy thing, making your own bread, and it’s something I haven’t yet perfected, after years of home baking. But I’m keeping with it. This recipe isn’t the best bread recipe you’ll find, but it is a nice simple one which will produce a delicious home-baked loaf with a cracking crust.    

 You will need:

500g granary bread flour (I used this one by Hovis)

7g fast-action yeast 

1 1/4 tsp salt 

2 tsp caster sugar 

25g butter 

300ml warm water 

1. Weigh the flour out into a large bowl.

2. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the sugar and salt to the other. If you just chuck the salt on top of the yeast it’s likely to kill it, then you would get no rise.

3. Add the butter. Mix the yeast into the flour on its half and the salt and sugar to the flour on their half (to dilute them and stop them killing each other off) then rub the butter into the whole mixture, making sure all the spiked flour ends up mixed together. 

4. Add about 3/4 of the water, and start to mix everything together. When you’re starting to get a consistent texture, add a little more, until it’s all combined without being too sticky a mess. A lesser known rule of bread-making is “the wetter the better”. 

5. Lightly flour your worktop (assuming it is clean). Don’t necessarily be tempted to use the same flour, however. I often use plain string white bread flour for this because I got fed up being short of the good flour the next time I went to use it. Bread flour is almost always sold in 1kg or 1.5kg bags, so if your recipe calls for 500g plus some for the board, you will inevitably go short!

6. Tip the dough onto the floured surface, and now you’re ready to knead. If you have a strong food mixer with a dough hook, it can be used to do the kneading for you. If you don’t, be prepared for 20 minutes of elbow grease!

7. To knead by hand, the aim is get lots of strength and movement into the dough to make the dough stretchy by developing the gluten in the flour. The opposite of what you’re trying to do making a cake or pastry. I’m afraid it’s rather difficult to pr odd accurate photos of something I usually use two hands to do, but I’ll do my best to explain! In the picture above, I’m pushing the top half of the dough away from me, whilst also pushing the hell of my hand down towards the worktop. Normally, I also pin the bottom half down with my other hand, increasing the tension on the middle part being stretched, but I can’t do that and take a photo at the same time.

8. Roll the dough back towards you into a ball, and repeat, kneading vigorously for around 20 minutes. You’ll start to feel the dough’s structure change as the gluten forms and the yeast starts to do its work. The dough will become a bit for uniform, more structured, and more pillowy. To test your dough, roll it into a ball and gently press it with your finger. If it bounces back, it’s ready. If not, give it another 5 minutes of kneading and try again. If you’re finding it boring, stick something on Netflix in front of you, or put some music on, put some welly into it and give yourself a bit of cardio. You’re not doing it right unless your knees are soft and your hips and getting involved!

9. When you’re happy with the dough, (readiness and feel will come in time and with practice, don’t worry) you need to roll it into a ball by pulling from the sides and tucking it underneath, turning and repeating until the top is nice and stretched. There are lots of videos kicking about if you’re struggling with this.

10. Pop it back in the bowl and gently oil or flour the top to stop it sticking, then tightly cling film. Now you leave it alone for an hour to an hour and a half, letting it prove (or rise) until doubled in size. If it’s a particularly cold room or day, it may take a little longer. Just let it do its thing. 

11. Next, you need to knock it back. Peel off the cling film, punch it in the face, give it a quick knead and turn it under into a loaf shape. Put it into a loaf tin and cover again, before letting it rise a final time for about an hour,or until it has doubled in size a bit. This was a bit of a guest loaf tin so don’t worry if yours fits more snugly.

12. Get the oven preheating to 200c fan and put the top shelf down out of the way. Slip a deep baking tray into the bottom of the oven, unless, like me, you have a grill pan shelf which lives in there. You’re just giving yourself a place to hold water later.

13. When the dough is ready and the oven is hot, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife, is whatever pattern you choose. Like kneading and shaping, this has become a sort of bakery art form so again it will come with practice. (Sorry o forgot to take a photo!). Shove the loaf in the oven and chuck a cup of water into the tray or grill pan. This will create steam to help the bread rise as well as giving you an epic crust. 


14. Bake for around half an hour in the centre of the oven, until the loaf is crusty but not burnt and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. 

Enjoy fresh and warm for maximum satisfaction, then slice up and freeze the leftovers. It makes excellent toast!


Baileys Cheesecake

This cheesecake has become a bit of a festive tradition for me (we always have Christmas pudding, trifle and another pudding I’m in charge of), but you can of course make it at any time of year. And of course, my traditions will very soon be replaced by new ones Charles and I make ourselves. 

You will need:
125g or so Digestive biscuits
125g or so of butter 
2 large tubs Philadelphia cream cheese (280g each)
1 medium sized tub double cream (300ml)
Around 80g icing sugar, depending on your taste 
75ml Baileys or unbranded Irish Cream Liqueur 
100g milk chocolate 
Additional chocolate or sprinkles to decorate – I used a 150g bar of dark chocolate, some cherries and some gold confetti sprinkles but you can go as mad or as understated as you’d like 
A large round springform tin

crush the digestives 1. Put the Digestives into a freezer or sandwich bag, seal the top and bash them up with a rolling pin or anything heavy. You should aim for mostly even crumbs with a few small lumps to keep things interesting. 
 how to crush Digestives

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low to medium heat. This is just to bind the base so you don’t need to go mad with heat.

 melt the butter 
3. Once the biscuits have been suitably bashed up and the butter has melted, tip the biscuits into the butter and mix until the crumbs have been evenly coated in butter and look like they’ll hold together when chilled. If it looks a bit dry, you can push the crumbs to the side, add more butter to melt and mix up again. 
 how to make a cheesecake base 
4. Tip the crumb mixture into the tin and press it down into the tin, spreading it out as evenly as possible.    

 5. Pop it into the fridge and chill for 30 mins to an hour, or longer if convenient.  

whip the cream6. Next, whip the cream until it is holding well but stop before that horrible curdle point.

7. Set that aside and pop the cream cheese into a bowl. Give it a quick mix to loosen it then add around half of the icing sugar and the Baileys. You can use more or less Baileys depending on your taste, but adding more than 50ml or so is likely to give you a looser filling which is harder to serve. I used about 75ml by the time I as finished swigging and that was about the edge of tolerance. If in doubt, use less, mix, taste then add more if necessary. Add a little more icing sugar, mix together and taste. If you are happy with that, leave it be.

 how to make a cheesecake 

8. Grate the chocolate. If your hands are relatively cold, this should be easy, but if you are in a warm environment I’d recommend chilling the chocolate in the fridge first to avoid it melting in your hand. Or use a larger bar than necessary and keep the wrapper on the unused portion to avoid sticky fingers. I use milk chocolate because the texture is softer and gives a subtler constrast to the smooth filling, but you can by all means use dark or even white if you prefer, or, of course, skip the chocolate altogether. 


9. Stir in the grated chocolate, and then you have your cheesecake filling. 

 Christmas dessert recipes
10. Pour into the tin, spread evenly and chill for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

 how to make a no-bake cheesecake 
Now comes the garnish! I did this on the day of serving but you can do it whenever you like. 

how to make chocolate covered cherries Melt a bar of chocolate, the easiest way is in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirred until just melted to avoid burning or blooming but you can of course use a Bain Marie.  

Dip the cherries in, one at a time, and place on a piece of grease proof paper or a non-stick baking mat until set. 


If you have any chocolate left, use a spoon to drizzle into shapes on the paper. These will also set and can then be stuck into the cheesecake as prettily as you can manage.

Sprinkle on the edible confetti and crumble up and failed decorations. 
Put back in the fridge until it’s wanted on the table, then carefully remove the ring and present. 


Sticky Gingerbread Loaf Cake

*DISCLAIMER: if you don’t like treacle or molasses, don’t bother reading this any further – this loaf tastes very treacley and I don’t want you to go to the effort of baking a loaf cake only to realise you hate it: it’s not the recipe, it’s the treacle!*
If you do like treacle, go for your life. Personally, I can’t stand treacle, but it’s become a bit of an annual tradition for me to bake one of these guys for Mr Brooker, whose sweet tooth is more subtle than my own. He likes to keep it wrapped in foil for a couple of weeks to get really sticky, but you can serve it as soon as it’s ready, either plain or buttered. I’m going to experiment a bit before next Christmas to see if I can work out a treacle-less loaf which isn’t just a syrup cake. Oh, and there’s no electric mixer necessary for this recipe. 

 You will need: 
150g butter – can be cold!
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle or molasses
125g dark muscovado sugar 
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger 
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp ground cloves 
250ml full-fat (whole) milk
2 eggs 
300g self-raising flour
A loaf tin
Geese proof paper to line the tin
A little more butter to grease the paper 
 1. To prepare, remove the top shelf from the oven and lower the middle shelf so there’s plebty of room for the loaf. Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan or 170c non-fan. Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper and lightly grease with butter. Weigh out the butter and sugar into a medium saucepan. 

  2. Add the syrup. Lyle’s now make syrup in a squeezey bottle which is so much handier for baking. Just squeeze in, pop the cap back on and stick it back in the cupboard; none of that messing around with a mental tin which needs the lid levering off. 

3. Add the treacle, fresh ginger and ground spices. Unfortunately you will need to faff about with a treacle tin now! 

 4. Put the saucepan over a low heat and mix the ingredients together as they melt. 

5. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl, just to break up the yolks for even mixing into the cake batter, and measure the milk into a jug. Then seive and weigh the flour into a large bowl, big enough to take the total volume of all the ingredients.   

6. Stir the melted ingredients together until well-combined then remove from the heat for a few minutes. 

 7. Pour in the milk and mix together. Then add the beaten eggs. Stir very quickly after you have added the eggs to help the temperature even out, though the milk should have given the cooling process a good start. 

 8. Tip the wet ingredients into the flour and mix everything together well. The lumps are easier to get rid of with an electric mixer but if you don’t have one just spend a few extra minutes gently stirring, pushing the lumps against the side of the bowl to help them to disperse. And using a seive to measure the flour will help too. 
9. Pour into the loaf tin and shove it in the oven. It should take around an hour to bake but it’s best to keep an eye on it. Don’t open the door until it has risen and looks to be firm. It’s ready when you push a skewer into it which is clean when removed. If it’s not quite ready,give it another 10 minutes then try again. 

 Serve in slices, plain or buttered, or give as a host gift when visiting someone, wrapped in paper or foil. Kept airtight, it should last for a couple of weeks.