Monthly Archives: September 2013

How To… Piñata Cake and Guinness & Rye Bread

This past week I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking and I’ve been asked to blog the instructions for two of these bakes by several people.  The first, and most popular, is a piñata cake that I made for my niece’s birthday.  The second is an experimental Guinness & rye loaf.  An experiment which turned out much better than I thought it would!

I’ll try and give the instructions in as clear and easy a way as possible but, of course, if there’s any questions just ask.

Piñata Cake


This is a really easy way to give a sandwich cake a bit of wow factor.  The cake is filled with sweets and when it’s cut the sweets will spill out of the cake.  Hence why it’s called a piñata cake.

I made this with a Victoria Sandwich recipe.  I wanted three layers so I used a standard recipe for two of the layers and then just halved that recipe for the third layer.  I wasn’t sure if that would work but luckily it did.  So here’s the ingredients and method for the sponge part:


200g soft butter (100g for the 3rd layer)

200g caster sugar (100g for the third layer)

4 eggs (2 for the 3rd layer)

1 tsp vanilla extract (a scant tsp for the 3rd layer)

200g self raising flour (100g for the 3rd layer)

Food colouring gels (optional)


Set the oven to 190c/375f/Gas Mark 5

Butter and line 3 x 20cm tins

Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after you’ve added each egg.  Stir in the vanilla with a metal spoon.  Sieve in the flour and stir to mix with a metal spoon.  At this point I divided the mix and coloured each layer differently with food colouring gels.  That’s completely optional.  Divide the mixture into the tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in their tins on a wire rack.  Repeat all the steps for the 3rd layer of sponge.

Now to explain how to assemble and fill the cake.  I used a small amount of seedless raspberry jam to sandwich the layers together.  I used a mixture of Smarties, white chocolate buttons, sweetie teeth and dolly mixtures to fill the cake but to be honest if I was making this again I would use only Smarties as they ‘spill’ out of the cake much easier.  Jelly beans would probably work well too.  At least 5 tubes of Smarties would be needed to fill a cake of this size.

Put the bottom layer of cake on a board with the flat side on the board.  Take a small amount of sponge out of the middle of the cake so you get a slight crater in the cake.  Spread jam round the top of the cake – don’t put any jam on the crater part.  Take the second sponge and cut a circle out of the middle of the cake so your left with a cake ring.  Sit the ring on top of the bottom layer and fill the hole with your sweets, (see pic above.)  Spread jam on top of the ring but make sure it doesn’t drip into the sweets.  Take the third layer.  As you did with the bottom layer, remove a small amount of sponge from the middle of the cake so you’re left with a crater.  If you do this on the rounded side of the cake you’ll be left with a nice flat top for decorating.  Sit the third layer, flat side up, on top of the other two layers.  Press it down gently to make sure all the layers are sticking together nicely, but not so hard that jam comes squirting out of the sides.  Don’t worry if there’s any gaps around the side of the cake as these can easily be filled and smoothed out with your icing.

At this point you could just cover the whole cake with buttercream or cream cheese icing and the effect would still be the same when you cut into the cake.  Because my niece wanted a Peppa Pig cake I was decorating it with fondant icing.  I made a vanilla butter cream and spread a thin layer all over the cake, filling in any gaps around the side of the cake, (see pic above.)  I then put it in the fridge until the buttercream set.  This stops crumbs from the cake getting into your icing.  I then removed it from the fridge and applied a second coat of buttercream which was the glue for the fondant icing which was rolled out, draped over the cake and cut and smoothed to a neat-ish finish, (see pic above.)  I then decorated the cake with a fondant icing Peppa Pig, fondant stars and my niece’s name iced onto the cake.

Any decoration would work well with this cake whether it’s a creamy icing or a fondant or royal icing.  There’s no way of telling from the outside of the cake that there’s loads of sweeties inside so the look on face of the person you’ve baked it for when then they cut into it will be worth the little bit of extra work you’ve put into making the cake.  I promise, this is not much more difficult that baking and assembling a standard sandwich cake.  You’re just making one extra layer and doing a wee bit of cutting.  If you don’t want to waste the extra sponge you’ve cut out you could maybe use it to make cake pops or just eat it as you go along!

Guinness & Rye Bread


I hadn’t baked any bread for a while and fancied having a bit of an experiment with a new loaf.  As I had some Guinness in the house and some rye flour that never gets used I thought I would try using them in the loaf.  The recipe was based on a tin loaf recipe with a few tweaks.  Tweaking doesn’t always work in baking as it’s such a science but sometimes it’s good to try something new.  If it works, great.  If not, it’s all a learning experience.  I’m glad to say this particular experiment worked.


300g strong bread flour

100g rye flour

8g table salt

7g instant yeast

25g unsalted butter, melted,

250ml Guinness

oil for kneading and greasing the tin


Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Make sure the salt and yeast don’t touch at this stage as the salt will kill the yeast.

Add the butter and about 2/3 of the Guinness and turn the mixture around with your fingers to make a dough, (if your hand looks like a claw you’re doing it right!)  Slowly add the rest of the Guinness whilst mixing until all the flour has been picked up into a dough.  You might not need to use all the liquid or you might need a bit more, (the Guinness comes in 330ml bottles so you’ll have plenty.)  Keep mixing in the bowl until you have a rough dough.

Spread a little bit of oil on your work surface to stop the dough sticking.  Put the dough on the work surface and then knead for a good 10 minutes until the dough feels smooth and not sticky.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for at least an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Oil a 1kg loaf tin.

Tip the dough onto a work surface that’s been lightly floured.  Shape the dough into a ball until all the air is knocked out and you have a smooth dough.  Roughly shape it into an oblong to fit the tin making sure that any folds are on the bottom.  Put the dough into the oiled tin.

Put the tin into a plastic bag and leave it somewhere warm for at least an hour until the dough has doubled in size.  It should spring back when you prod it gently.  Set the oven to 220c and put a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven.

Dust the top of the loaf with a wee bit of flour.  Fill the roasting tin with some water to create steam, which will give you a nice crust, and put the bread into the oven.

Bake for around 30 minutes.  You’ll know the bread is ready when you take it out of the tin and you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.

Cool the bread, out of the tin, on a wire rack.

The flavour of this bread was yeasty and nutty.  The smell when it was baking was fantastic and the Guinness and rye flour gave it a lovely colour.  This was great just with butter but would also be perfect with cheese.  Given it’s ale content it would be the ideal loaf to have with a Ploughman’s.  Delicious.

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Spread A Little Happiness. #BakingWithMackays Part 1.

Whilst I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, I really like jams, marmalades, jellies, etc.  One of the greatest pleasures in life for me is a jam sandwich made with either raspberry jam or bramble jelly, (incidentally I’m a salted butter with my jam girl and the bread has to be Mother’s Pride plain.)  So I was really excited when I got the chance to be part of #BakingWithMackays, an initiative that Mackays, the Arbroath based producer of jams, marmalades, curds, preserves and conserves, have been promoting on Twitter.  I selected a number of items from Mackays’ range which they very kindly sent to me in return for me coming up with some recipes and telling you all about them on here.  All of the posts for #BakingWithMackays will come under the title of ‘Spread a Little Happiness’.

The first of these recipes is Ginger & Lemon Sandwich.  This was made using Mackays’ Spiced Ginger Preserve.  It’s a very simple recipe based on a traditional Victoria Sandwich, but highlights how by using different ingredients or flavours, an old favourite can be transformed into something new and exciting.  I love ginger and use it a lot in my cooking; both savoury and sweet.  I love the heat it provides and matched with zesty lemon it’s a culinary marriage made in heaven.  Ginger is reputed to have a number of health benefits so if you bake and eat this cake perhaps you could convince yourself you’re actually being very health conscious!


Ginger & Lemon Sandwich


200g butter, softened

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g self-raising flour

zest of 1 lemon and 1 tbs lemon juice (you could replace this with 1 tsp vanilla extract if you wish)

small tub whipping cream (approx. 200ml)

approx. third of a jar of lemon curd*

approx. third of a jar of Mackays Spiced Ginger Preserve

2 – 3 tbs icing sugar

(I’ve given approximations here as I think it’s a personal choice how much filling you have in your cake.  As you will see from the photograph below I probably used too much filling!)

*Mackays produce a lemon curd but I think it’s fair that I point out here that I didn’t use their’s for this particular cake.



1.  Grease two 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins and line the bottoms with baking paper.  Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5

2.  Cream the butter and sugar together for a good 5 minutes with an electric whisk, (if you’re lazy like me!), until really pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  If the mixture looks like it’s starting to curdle slightly just add a wee bit of your flour, beat well and it’ll all come good.

3.  Stir in the lemon zest and juice or vanilla with a metal spoon.

4.  Sieve in the flour and stir in with a metal spoon.

5.  Divide the mixture between the 2 tins.  Top Tip…if you make a slight dip in the middle of the cake batter your cakes will come out with a flatter top.  I always forget to do this!  Knock each tin on your work surface to get rid of any air pockets and put in the oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes.  This is totally dependant on your oven.  I’ve found with my oven 17 minutes is the perfect cooking time.  Once ready the cakes should bounce back when pressed slightly and a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.  Leave the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

6.  When the cakes have cooled completely remove them from the tins.  It’s easiest to do this by sitting them on a mug and pushing down so the outer ring of the tin falls but the cake and base of the tin are still secure on top of the mug.

7.  Whip the cream until it’s voluptuously thick but hasn’t gone ‘buttery’.  Fold the lemon curd through the cream.  It’s nice to have ribbons of the curd so don’t mix it through completely.  For an extra lemon hit you could add some additional lemon zest.

8.  Place one of the cakes on a serving dish or cake stand and spread thickly with the Spiced Ginger Preserve.  Top with the lemon curd cream, (you probably won’t need to use it all but it’s nice to serve on the side as well or, even better, eat straight from the bowl!), and place the second cake carefully on top.  Sieve a small amount of icing sugar over the surface of the cake.


Et voila!  Ginger & Lemon Sandwich.  Perfect with a cup of tea.  A lovely combination of sharp lemon and spicy, earthy ginger.  I recommend you give it a try.

You can follow Mackays on Twitter at  @Mackays_jams or like on Facebook at facebook/Mackays.jams





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Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice. A Beginner’s Guide To Weaning.

Anyone who says they’re an expert on everything and has nothing to learn is both a liar and a fool.  One of my favourite sayings is, “every day’s a school day.”  With this in mind I thought it would be good to feature some guest writers on here, in particular writers who were going to speak about something I know little about.

I’m the proud Auntie to five gorgeous nieces.  I’m more than happy to cook with and feed the three older ones, in fact this is something I adore doing, but I wouldn’t really know where to start with the two babies in our family.  Babies can chew on a ribeye steak can’t they?  The only experience I have of weaning babies is reading the chapter dedicated to it in How To Eat by Nigella Lawson, (Chatto & Windus, 1999).  Whilst that makes for very interesting reading, I thought it might be fun to hear some real life experiences of this from my sister Hayley who had her first baby, (niece number 5), last year.  Here my sister talks about her, her husband and her daughter’s first tentative steps into the world of ‘real food’.  What my sister doesn’t know is, I’m hoping she might do some updates on here every few months so me, and any readers who may be interested, can follow this food journey as it progresses…

When my sister asked me if I’d like to write a guest post on Blow Your Own Crumpet I’ve got to say I was somewhat shocked.  It’s well known amongst my family and friends that I’m no cook.  My idea of being a good hostess is showing you where the kettle is and handing over a take-away menu!

But something happened on the 2nd December 2012 that was to change my attitude, (although I’ll still show you the kettle!)  My beautiful daughter, Elsie, was born.  Like all new mums, you start your journey wanting the best for your child, wanting them to have what you didn’t and wanting them to eat well and healthily.  I didn’t have any hands-on experience of weaning before being a mum so it was a whole new world to me but from the very start I knew I wanted my child to have fresh, homemade, tasty food.  I’m not criticising anyone who decides to feed their children jars of pureed food but I knew it wasn’t for me.  I did a lot of research into weaning.  The Health Visitor provided an NHS leaflet and plenty of information face to face.  After embarking on this research I was ready to start when Elsie was.

The weaning  started when Elsie was 5 and a half months old.  Starting weaning before 6 months is not recommended and there are a lot of restrictions to food types babies can have, but we knew she was ready so we went ahead giving her what we could.  She started with baby rice, followed closely by pureed banana.  We started small and before we knew it Elsie was eating 3 times a day!

The day Elsie turned 6 months was the day her wonderful journey with food really started.  If there’s any advice I could give, it’s make sure you start giving the lumpy food on their ‘half birthday’.  It is so easy to continue giving your baby pureed foods as more solid food can be messy, time consuming, there’s the fear of chocking and many times babies will point blank refuse to take it!  But keep going.  You’ll reap the rewards before you know it!

I’m no Annabel Karmel and would never claim to be, but I know I want the best for my child and if that means standing in a kitchen cooking a few evenings a month to make sure she’s getting the best I can give her, then I will.  I’m a big believer in bulk cooking and freezing meals, especially as I’ll be returning to work in September.   I’m certainly not one to deprive her of sweet, sugary things.  Elsie enjoyed her first bit of chocolate at 8 months old in Cadbury World and I couldn’t have been more excited to see her face as she experienced that taste for the first time.  Of course she doesnt get things like that every day, but once in a while I don’t have a problem with.  I don’t think it’s fair to stop a child enjoying a treat now and again.

Elsie is now 9 months old and so far has loved all the different foods she’s been introduced to, from moussaka to a custard cream!  We’ve been very lucky that Elsie isn’t a fussy eater, (so far!), and took to solids very well but I also believe that persistance and variety in textures has helped.  She loves fruit and many of the recipes I make are full of vegetables so she’s healthy, happy and satisfied.


I’m proud of the fact she’s tasted things I never have.  She’s opened my eyes to foods I would never have even noticed before and I thank her for giving me the opportunity to become a better, healthier person… and learning to cook!

Below are a couple of recipes I’ve cooked from Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book (The Red One) by Ella’s Kitchen (Hamlyn, 2013).  I really enjoy the recipes in this book and they’re enjoyed by all the family.

Magical Moroccan-Style Chicken 

I love this recipe as it’s easy and full of flavour.  It’s a great recipe to introduce babies to spices and many different textures. This recipe makes around 12 ice-cube portions if you’re freezing.  


1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2 chicken breasts (about 300g, diced)

1 large carrot, diced

1 leek, sliced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

400g chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon tomato puree

600ml/1 pint vegetable stock

100g dried apricots

50g dried prunes


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces for 4 minutes until golden on all sides.  Add the vegetables and spices and fry for a further 2-3 minutes

2. Add the chickpeas, tomato puree, vegetable stock, apricots and prunes and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the ingredients are tender.

3. Serve on a bed of couscous.

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Squishy Salmon/Cod Fishcakes

Fish is a very important part of the weaning diet.  I have made these fishcakes with both salmon and cod; the cod was the more favoured fish.  I tend to mash the green beans into the mixture rather than chop which seems to be better for younger childen.  This recipe makes around 9 fishcakes.  Great for freezing!


400g potatoes, cut in to large pieces

1 carrot, cut in to small pieces

200g salmon/cod fillets, skin removed

3 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 small leek, thinly sliced

25g green beans, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Cook the potato and carrot in boiing water for 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and mash them together, and set the mash aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, poach the salmon/cod in simmering water for 5 minutes until cooked through, then allow to cool.  Break up the fish into flakes, taking care to ensure there are no bones.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the leek and beans for 5 minutes until tender.   Stir them into the carrot and potato mash, (mashing the beans if you prefer), then add the cooked salmon and the parsley to the mixture and stir again.

4. Using your hands mould the mixture into fishcakes.

5*. Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and cook the fishcakes for 5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and warm through.  Serve immediately with some peas.

*If you are freezing the fishcakes do not do step 5 until you have defrosted and are ready to eat the fishcakes.

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Recipes courtesy of Ella’s Kitchen: The Cook Book (The Red One) by Ella’s Kitchen (Hamlyn, 2013)

I hope you enjoyed Blow Your Own Crumpet’s first guest post.  If you fancy writing one please just let me know.

What I find great about these recipes is they’re not ‘baby’ food.  I regularly make fish cakes and the Moroccan chicken sounds exactly like something I’d cook.  I’m no expert, but I would imagine that feeding your baby the same food as you from the get-go would help to introduce the idea of family mealtimes, people eating the same foods at the same time, not a continuous conveyor belt of different dishes being served up by a harassed cook.  Surely that has to be a good thing?

Karen x

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