Chocolate Peppermint Tart

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 1

The easiest pudding in the world I think, bar offering a bowl of apples.  Crunchy biscuit base, no need for faffing with pastry on this occasion.  Creamy, truffley chocolate filling with a hint of mint (hint of mint?).  A cross between a great big After Eight and a Viscount biscuit (remember those?).  You can have all the ingredients in the cupboard and fridge and then conjure this up when you have a few minutes to spare.  You will be greeted by oohs and ash when you bring out this little number and no one, but no one will believe you didn’t slave to produce your masterpiece.  Some crushed up candy canes makes this pure Christmas for me but if that is a step too far for you, please dispense with this final flourish.

This might look like a slightly small tart for eight but it is very rich.  A small slice would probably cover pudding and after dinner mint in one go.  Alternatively just make a bigger one.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 3

If you want to go to the Chocolate Orange route then substitute Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the peppermint but bear in mind your tart will now contain a drop or two of alcohol.  This version would look stunning topped with some chocolate covered candied orange peel.

I usually make a chocolatey pudding around Christmas or New Year and if you want another to try, make my Chocolate Pudding Cake (December 2012) which is simplicity itself and better still, you can make it now and freeze until you need it.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 2

Chocolate Peppermint Tart

I use the all chocolate Neos from Lidl which work a treat but you could use Oreos.  Choose the all chocolate ones rather than those with a white filling to keep the dark beauty of the base if you can but both taste delicious.

225g Neos or Oreos

50g butter plus a tiny bit extra for brushing the tin, all melted

Pinch of salt

150g chocolate, I use half milk and half plain

20g butter

150ml cream

1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Brush a 20cm tart tin with a removable base with a little melted butter.  Whizz the biscuits in a processor or bash them in a plastic bag until you have fine crumbs.  Mix with the remaining melted butter, a pinch of salt and then press firmly into the tin including the sides.   Chill this in the fridge whilst you get on with the filling.   Melt the chocolate, butter and cream gently in a pan.  Once this is all amalgamated add a teaspoon of peppermint, mix well and then taste, you might want a little more but don’t overdo it, you want gentle peppermint not mouthwash.  Pour this mixture into the biscuit shell and chill until set, a couple of hours.  Now, how easy was that?

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 5


Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant

I love a good chocolate fondant and wasn’t convinced there was any need to gild the lily but this salted caramel idea just wouldn’t go away and I knew I had to have a go at making it.  Just out of interest you understand…….  So this is the pudding I teased you with around Valentine’s and I thought it would be perfect for Mothering Sunday should you still be without a pudding or as an early Easter treat.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 3

These puddings are sublime, honestly beyond fabulous.  A crisp chocolate outer gives way to a soft chocolate pudding containing molten caramel sauce within.  They are so good.  Surprisingly they also very easy to make and sit happily in the fridge until you want to cook them.  As long as the oven is at 200 and you cook them for exactly 12 minutes they will be perfect.   I am no expert baker but if I can do them then anyone can.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 4

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

I am all for quick and easy and although these puds fit that bill you will need to make the caramel ahead of time so it can set firm.  This only takes a few hours but I made it a day ahead so I could forget about it.  You can also make the puddings the day ahead and keep in the fridge.  If you remember put the caramel in the freezer when you start making the puddings just to give them an extra chill – this keeps the sauce together rather than it melting straight into the puddings.  Miss the salt out if you think you or your children would prefer Caramel Chocolate Fondants.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons double cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sea salt

85g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

85g chocolate, I used 50/50 dark and milk

85g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon coffee

45g plain flour

Pinch of salt

Heat the butter, sugar and cream in a pan and let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and a good pinch of salt.  When it is cold enough to taste try it, you may want more salt then put this caramel in a small bowl in the fridge to set.  Grease 4 metal pudding tins with the melted butter then dust each one with cocoa.  Put in the fridge until you need them.   Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale, frothy and at least doubled in volume.  Mix the chocolate mixture into the eggs, add the coffee and then gently fold in the flour along with a pinch of salt.   Half fill each greased tin with the chocolate mixture then add a teaspoonful of the cold caramel, it may sink a bit but don’t worry.  Pour the remaining mix over the caramel to fill the tins.  Put the puddings into the fridge for at least half an hour whilst you preheat the oven to 200.  Cook the puddings for exactly 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn out onto plates and serve with cream or ice cream.  This makes  four but it is up to you how many it serves…..

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 2


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise cake

Years ago I worked as a waitress in a restaurant in Yorkshire and I would recite the pudding list to the customers.  Whenever I cam to the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake there would be a lot of oohing and “how weirds”!  Admittedly it sounds a little strange but the principle of eggs and fat or oil are bang on as ingredients for a cake. They are just already combined for you in mayonnaise.  Foolishly I never got that original recipe but after some experimenting I came up with this.  Unusually for a cake I think it is better the day after you make it as it seems to become more fudgy and although I thought it might be a bit rich for children, I offered it for tea recently and seconds and thirds were required…

I mention it now in particular because it is a great recipe to have up your sleeve in an emergency.  Whilst you may run short of butter or eggs over the holidays, there is almost always a jar of mayonnaise in the fridge standing by for those cold turkey sandwiches.   So if you don’t like Christmas cake or just want to rustle up a cake for tea, why not try this.  Happy Christmas!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

I usually dust this with cocoa as I like that bitter edge but I couldn’t resist a snowy fall of icing sugar today.

250g self raising flour

55g cocoa powder plus a little extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

200g golden caster sugar

220g mayonnaise

200ml water

Icing sugar or extra cocoa to serve

Preheat the oven to 180.  Butter and flour (or cocoa) a loose bottom 23cm tin.  Sift the flour and cocoa together, then add the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated and smooth, either with a hand held beater or in a mixer.  Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 30-40 minutes until if feels firm to the touch on top.  Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.  Dust with cocoa or icing sugar before serving.  Serves 8.

If you want a slightly denser (in a good way!) cake to serve for a pudding, look no further than my Chocolate Pudding Cake which I posted, funnily enough, last December.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

World Cup Meringue Cake

World cup meringue cake 3

So called because we had this for dinner whilst watching the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  My husband is South African so clearly this was a night for some rejoicing and this cake has ever after been associated with celebration and happy days.   Crispy, chewy meringue against a smooth rich chocolatey filling – fabulous.   Oh and yes, I do realise 2007 was a few years ago but the name has stuck!

Anyway, it is supremely easy to make and the meringue layers will be fine in an airtight tin for a couple of days.  In fact, if you have room in your freezer to keep the layers flat then that is another option.  Should you have a bottle of Baileys, Kahlua or similar in the cupboard then this is the perfect time to use a couple of tablespoons in the ganache filling. Cointreau or Grand Marnier now I think of it would take you the chocolate orange route…. If you are serving this to the underage leave out the alcohol and perhaps go 50/50 milk and plain chocolate, this is what my children prefer.  I like this with very cold pouring cream – my husband however likes it with whipped cream providing another layer between the ganache and the meringue, but you can take your pick.

Whatever your sporting affiliations, please make and enjoy.

World cup meringue cake

World Cup Meringue Cake

4 egg whites

200g caster sugar

1 teaspoon wine vinegar (red or white)

1 teaspoon cornflour

300ml double cream

150g chocolate, plain or 50/50 plain and milk chocolate

Icing sugar, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 140. Cut out 3 x 20cm circles in baking parchment and put onto baking sheets.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff then gradually incorporate the sugar.  When all that is mixed in add the vinegar and cornflour and mix until all is smooth and satiny.  Divide the mixture between the 3 circles and smooth.  Cook for an hour then turn off the oven and leave them in there for a further 30 minutes.  Take out and leave to cool.  Meanwhile put the cream and chocolate in a small pan and heat gently until melted and smooth, add the liqueur now if using.  Decant this ganache into a bowl and leave to cool until thick, I find the fridge best for this.   Keeping the best looking meringue for the top, divide the ganache between the other two,  pile them up, dust with icing sugar and serve to applause.  Serves 6 generously.

World cup meringue cake 2

Marble Cake

Marble cake slice 2

I have felt a little caked-out recently following my Macmillan coffee morning but it is a dreary rainy October day in Dorset so there is only one thing to do – bake.  I make no secret of my fondness for a well stocked cake tin (Lemon Cake and the 1970’s, May 2013),  perhaps because when I was young a slice of cake was a proper treat.  It still is actually and ideally a weekly one and not something just for high days and holidays.

I may be sporting my rose coloured specs, the ones I usually view the 70’s with (blazing hot summers and superb music, forgetting strikes and power cuts etc) but I’m sure cakes were always homemade and whipped out triumphantly for weekends tea.  The only bought ones I can remember were something called a Country Manor Cake, a sort of light fruit cake with a demerara sugar topping which I was strangely fond of and the fabulous fluorescent Battenburg which enthralled me with its colours and the marzipan which I would peel off.

A marble cake was often the star at these teas and it seemed somehow exciting and exotic, what with its different flavours and swirls.  Many (many) years on I decided to make a marble cake and was delighted that my children were just as excited by the pattern and having both chocolate and vanilla flavours in one cake.   So much so that my son requested a marble cake, and it absolutely had to be a marble cake, last week when he had a friend from school over for tea.

You will see from the photographs that my marbling and swirling isn’t brilliant, artistry in cakes not one of my strengths and I doubt I will be troubling Paul and Mary any time soon.  The pictures are also the best I can do on a grey overcast day but I hope they convey the lovely texture of this easy and delicious cake.  Please, please do make it.

Marble Cake close 2

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

I use both milk and plain chocolate for the icing, all milk I find too sweet and all plain my children find too dark.  The mix of the two seems just right but as ever, adjust to your own tastes.

200g caster sugar

200g butter, soft

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25g cocoa

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons milk

For the icing

100g chocolate, milk or plain as you prefer, see introduction

20g butter

1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170 and grease a 20cm tin which is at least 6-8cm deep.  Whizz the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time each with a spoonful of flour.  Once these are incorporated sift in the reminder of the flour along with the baking powder and salt then add the milk and vanilla.  Put half the mixture into another bowl and sift the cocoa into one lot, mix well.  Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tin alternating vanilla and chocolate.  Run a skewer through the blobs marbling as you go and then bake for 55 minutes.  Check after 45 in case it is browning too much on top in which case lay a piece of foil over it.  When a skewer comes out clean leave to cool and then remove from the tin.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then add the milk until you get the consistency you are after for the icing, I find one tablespoon is usually enough.  Pour over the cake and dig in.

Marble cake whole

Lemon Cake and the 1970’s

Anna May everyday lemon cake


I like to have a cake in the tin at weekends, it make me feel a bit Ma Larkin and reminds me of proper weekend teas when I was young.  There was usually a good walk on a Saturday afternoon so when you got home tea was well deserved.  Crumpets, scotch pancakes or cheese on toast followed by scones perhaps or cake, probably accompanied by the wrestling on World of Sport – that sort of thing.  I don’t know if these feasts were purely a reward for hiking up hill and dale or whether the grown ups were using them to line the stomach before those epic 70’s dinner parties.

I remember them well and watched them through the bannister halfway up the stairs.  The ladies in long dresses with hair up would arrive in a cloud of Diorella or Rive Gauche.  The men in velvet jackets or occasionally in slightly racy frilly shirts, hair slicked back – it was a different sartorial time.

Quite a different time for food too and the puddings stick particularly in my memory.  The first thing being the choice, there were always several puddings on offer, why was that?  Back then there were profiteroles, brandy snaps filled with cream, lemon mousse always towering high above the sides of the white souffle dish, pots au chocolate in regulation little china urns, sliced oranges with caramel shards in the juice – all of them still delicious to this day but also very much of the time.  Being in possession of the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, an early Mary Berry, I was keen for my Mother to offer such thrills as the Loganberry Mousse which looked a proper treat in the crystal bowl in the picture.  Loganberries being in short supply in North Yorkshire during the 70’s this sadly never graced the table chez nous.

Following this array of desserts, the cupboard of the sideboard would be opened and the stickies would appear, Cointreau, Kummel, Royal Mint Chocolate Liqueur, Port… You know what, it is not surprising a few crumpets were required as ballast before dinners like these.

So I like a cake in the tin.  Whilst I am more than happy with a simple bake, the fabulous weather we had this week required something special, more celebratory as we heralded the arrival of Spring (so late it is almost time for summer).  Thus my triple layer lemon cake for what could be more sprightly and springlike than lemon.  A light sponge with tangy lemon curd and smooth soothing cream as an extra little treat.  It is simple but thoroughly spoiling, worthy of a birthday as much as being a Saturday tea cake.  It is not however obligatory to follow this with a four course 1970’s dinner.  Now, where is my roll on lip gloss….

Lemon Cake

165g soft butter

165g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

165g self raising flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

75 ml milk

1/2 pot lemon curd

300ml double cream

Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170 and grease a deep (7-8cm) 20cm tin.  Cream the butter and sugar together for five minutes until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time whisking well between each one, then sift in the flour and baking powder.  Stir in the milk and then put the mixture into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 45-55 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin and the cool completely on a wire rack.  Meanwhile whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks but is not stiff.  When the cake is cold cut into three, I find a bread knife easiest for this, and spread the bottom layer with lemon curd and then cream, top with another slice of cake and repeat.  Put on the top layer, dust with icing sugar and serve.   This is squidgy and fabulous and you may need forks to eat it.  Keep in the fridge if you don’t finish it off in one go.


I have entered this cake into Layer Cake Tea Time Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage – check out both these sites for delicious things to cook!

Chocolate and Amaretti Spelt Cakes

Anna May everyday chocolate amaretti cakes


I have been reading a lot recently about the benefits of alternative ingredients, spelt and buckwheat instead of regular flour, agave nectar and honey in place of sugar etc.  I’ve already reduced the sugar in my normal brownie recipe, use maple syrup and or/honey in my granola and so on.  Little steps but I don’t want to simply throw out all those recipes that we love – I can just do a bit of tinkering here and there.

I often make spelt bread and like its earthy slightly nutty flavour but was a little apprehensive about cake baking with it, how would it behave, would it rise, would it be heavy?  Well, what a marvellous surprise, these little cakes are fluffy and light, rose perfectly and are a real treat.

We have chocolate left over from Easter and an open packet of amaretti biscuits I was keen to use which is what gave me this idea.   I crumbled some of the amaretti over the top of the cakes as you can see in the picture and also crushed a few and added them to the batter before baking.  They add a nice extra dimension and texture but if you really want that almond hit you might add a couple of drops of almond extract.  Or, I hear myself think, perhaps add some Amaretto to the icing (grown ups only)….  Alternatively dispense with all things almondy and make them simply chocolate if you prefer.  Anyway, here they are, the cakes themselves are not seriously sweet but taste just right when combined with the chocolate ganache topping and am I right in thinking these almost qualify as health food…..

Chocolate and Amaretti Spelt Cakes

100g butter

100g golden caster sugar

100g white spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

6 amaretti biscuits

Preheat the oven to 180 and put 6 large (muffin rather than fairy) cake cases on a bun tin.   Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add the eggs and then sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder.  Mix in the milk and add 4 crumbled amaretti if you are using them.  Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 15 minutes.  Leave to cool on a wire tray.

For the topping melt 25g dark chocolate, 25g milk chocolate and 4 tablespoons double cream, mix together and leave to cool and thicken.  Spread over the cakes and sprinkle over the remaining 2 crushed amaretti if using.  Makes 6.


Chocolate Pudding Cake


I feel I have just got over the Christmas cooking and eating and now New Year’s Eve presents itself.  Whilst I realise the dates remain the same year in year out, it can take me by surprise.  Perhaps because of the way days drift into one another and we seem to be asking ourselves is it Monday or Tuesday.  Thus, if you are like me you may need a last minute pudding up your sleeve and this could be it.

A rich, elegant and delicious pud, a perfect way to finish dinner, not just at the end of the year but anytime – special enough for a treat but not fussy or frilly.  The little black dress of puddings if you will.  You can make this today and it will still be fabulous in a couple of days if you wrap it in foil and keep in a cool place, not hard at this time of year.  In fact the cake you see in the photograph was one I made before Christmas and froze – it was just as good as if made on the day.   We had it with cold double cream but whipped would be lovely too, or creme fraiche if you prefer.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

175g butter

175g plain chocolate

175g caster sugar

175g ground almonds

6 eggs

Preheat the oven to 160.  Butter and base line with parchment a 20cm cake tin. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.  Meanwhile, whizz the sugar and butter together in a processor, add the eggs one at a time and the ground almonds.  Finally add the melted chocolate and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes.   Leave to cool and peel the paper off bottom before putting onto a serving plate and dusting with icing sugar if you want.   Serves 8.

Happy New Year!


Patrick’s Plum Cake

Plums.  Glorious purple, red, maroon juicy plums – delicious as they are but the perfect answer to all manner of puddings, breakfasts, cakes or tarts.  It is getting a little late in the season but there are still plenty around so grab them when you can.  Stewed plums (a compote if you prefer) with Greek yogurt for breakfast, perhaps with a little granola on top for crunch, little plum tarts quick to make on bought puff pastry, their edges sticky and sweet with plum juice.  Or a good old fashioned plum crumble – with custard or thick cold cream – wonderful, and the perfect comfort food now the weather has turned so chilly.   It you see them on special offer buy a load and make the easiest jam to see you through the winter, good on toast, good in tarts.  Now I think of it I am sure there is some sort of Eastern European plum brandy I haven’t tried making yet….

This week we used plums in Patricks’ Plum Cake, so called because my little boy helped me when I was working on this.  He was inordinately proud of it, quite rightly, it is a delicious autumn variation on my Raspberry and Almond Cake.  You can add a little almond extract with the vanilla to beef up the almond flavour or stick with just the vanilla if you prefer.  Can’t help thinking it would make a pretty good pudding with some warm custard too.

Patrick’s Plum Cake (Plum and Almond Cake)

150g soft butter

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

150g ground almonds

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teasp vanilla and 1/2 teasp almond)

3 tablespoons milk

5 or 6 ripe plums, sliced

Icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180.  Grease and baseline a 20cm square tin.  Cream the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes until fluffy and lighter in colour.  Add the eggs one at a time with a teaspoon of flour.  When they are incorporated fold in the remaining flour, baking powder, almonds, vanilla extract and milk.  Put half the mixture in the prepared tin, scatter over the plums in an even layer and top with the remaining mixture.  Bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer is removed clean.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before removing to a cooling rack.  Sprinkle with icing sugar if you like before serving.


A Birthday Cake


The birthday cake – a perfect place to start baking.  This cake was such an act of love – both the planning and the execution.  My little boy making the mixture, adding a bit extra vanilla extract (which he so loves) carefully turning the mixer on and off, cracking the eggs and putting in the flour.  On and off again and finally once the mix was in the oven, sitting on the table licking the spatula and what was left to be scavenged from the bowl.

My daughter elaborately setting the scene – keeping Daddy out of the room, arranging the candles, perfectly spelled out, orchestrating the presentation and leading the sing song.

There are as many recipes for a Victoria Sponge as there are days in the year but the following is so straightforward and a particularly good way to teach children.  Their pride in the finished article will more than compensate for the mess.

Take three eggs and weigh them, make a note of the weight and then measure out the same of soft butter, caster sugar and self raising flour.  Cream the butter and sugar for a good 5 minutes until light in colour and texture.  Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour to stop it curdling, sift in the remaining flour with half  a teaspoon of baking powder.  Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of milk until the mixture will drop off a spoon.  Divide between two 18cm greased and base lined tins and bake at 170 for 25 minutes.  If you only have 20cm tins make it a 4 egg mix.

Traditionally sandwiched together with raspberry jam and spinkled with caster sugar but you can go crazy here, it is your cake after all.  Whipped cream or butter cream with the jam is never a bad thing, fresh raspberries good too.  Lemon curd with or without the cream looks summery and tastes delicious, a compote of gooseberries or rhubarb would add fabulous tang to the sweet cake or maybe chocolate spread if that is your thing…

The top cake is the birthday special but it would look like the one above if not in a darkened room lit only by candles.