Tag Archives: Delia Smith


I’m still baking the basics and, this week, I decided to try to make some scones.  I say try, because I have attempted them before and ended up with biscuit-type things that tasted a slightly sconey at most.  Everyone (except my husband, who always tells it like it is when it comes to cake) was very polite about them, but when nobody could cut them in half to pile on the jam and cream that is the very essence of a scone, I knew I’d failed.

As usual, when I try to make something I’ve failed at before, I turned to Delia Smith.  I used the recipe for Rich Fruit Scones from Delia’s Cakes which is also available from the Deliaonline website.  I also had help this week from my little girl.  She’s three and was in charge of eggs…

…and mixing.

I sifted self-raising flour into a bowl, added caster sugar (the recipe uses golden caster sugar, but I didn’t have any) and, together with N, used my brilliant pastry blender to mix in softened butter until the mixture looked crumbly.  We did a pretty good job.

“We did it together like best friends didn’t we mummy?”  My heart melted.

I fished out a little bit of shell from a very well beaten egg and added it to the mixture along with some milk.  I wasn’t sure whether to add the whole recipe amount of 3 tablespoons at one go because, although I know that scone dough has to be quite soft, I didn’t want to have to work with something really wet.  My mom says that the best scones she ever made were from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.  She was making half of the recipe, forgot, put the whole amount of liquid in and ended up with a dough that she could hardly work with.  She couldn’t quite believe it when what came out of the oven was the perfect scone.   I might end up with really good scones, but I think I’d rather put up with something less-than-perfect than a pile of slop. Especially with a three-year old on the loose in the kitchen.

I was putting my trust on Delia though, and the recipe didn’t say anything about adding the milk in stages.  I decided to add it slowly.  This way, I could stop if the mixture started to look more milky than doughy.  In the end, I added a couple more tablespoons than the recipe amount – I think my egg may have been a bit on the small side – and brought the mixture together into a soft, but not sticky, dough as instructed.

I put some flour onto a board and turned it out.  I flattened, rather than rolled, the dough to a thickness of 3cm and cut out 5cm rounds.  I had nine scones.  I gave N the off-cuts and she made two rabbits.  We sprinkled flour over the top of them and baked them on lined baking sheets at 200ºC fan for 15 minutes.  I checked them by tapping the bottom.  You get a hollow sound once they’re cooked.

They came out looking like this.

I was pleased.  At least this time they looked like scones.  My mom said that there were really light and, although I put so much jam on mine, the scone taste was somewhat overwhelmed, it was still there.  I’ll definitely make them again for a treat on a rainy afternoon.  Oh, and N really enjoyed the whole baking and eating thing.  Something to try again. Strictly on bath days only though I think.

Coffee, Cardamom and Pistachio Cake

P1010811 (640x480)After a tricky week with the macaroons, I did what I always do, and sought the relative safety of Mary or Delia.  I decided to try the coffee and cardamom cake with pistachios from Delia’s Cakes. The flavour combination sounded interesting, and could there be a better way of getting more nuts into my diet than putting them into a cake?

Even though I was doing a Delia this week (who usually doesn’t give me any problems), this cake certainly wasn’t trouble-free.  I started off with a dilemma about which size tins to use.  The recipe is for 18cm (7 inch) tins.  I have 20cm tins and 16cm tins.  I decided to use the smaller ones.  Better to have a cake that is too thick than too thin.  I greased them and lined the bottoms with baking paper.

Next thing, pistachios.  I managed to roast them without incident.  I put them on a baking tray and into the oven at 150° fan for the eight minutes stipulated by the recipe.  They came out smelling absolutely lovely.  So far so good.

While the pistachios were roasting, I split open 20 green cardamom pods and whizzed up the seeds in a spice grinder to a fine powder.  Now, in the recipe, Delia says that you should make the fine powder using a pestle and mortar, so I’m not sure whether using the spice grinder was the right thing to do here. When I opened the lid, my eyes started to water.  Perhaps, with a pestle and mortar, my powdered cardamom seeds wouldn’t have been quite so pungent.

I also used the grinder to chop half of the roasted pistachios.  very finely chopped pistachiosI know they were supposed to be finely chopped, but I think using a spice grinder may have been a step too far.  Next time, a knife and chopping board will be fine.

To make the cake, I sifted self-raising flour and baking powder into a bowl and used the KitchenAid to beat in butter, eggs, caster sugar and one half of my potent cardamom seed powder.  For the coffee flavour, the recipe uses instant espresso powder.  There is a lot of coffee in our house; pods, instant, and ground coffee for cafetière and proper espresso machines.  We don’t have any instant espresso powder.  I wasn’t really sure what to do here.  I couldn’t use the ground coffee because it wouldn’t dissolve, and I didn’t think the instant would be strong enough.  I ended up making a really, really strong espresso with the pods (I used three). I used a couple of tablespoons of that in the cake mixture and then managed to spill most of the rest over Delia’s Cakes.   

Once the espresso was in, I beat the mixture until it was creamy.  This took a bit longer than the minute given in the recipe because I used block butter, rather than the spreadable kind that Delia prefers.  I started to spoon the mixture into my tins, and then realised that I hadn’t added the pistachios. I scraped the mixture back into the mixing bowl, folded in the ground pistachios, put the mixture back into the tins and put them into the oven at 150° fan.

While the cake was in the oven I made a coffee and cardamom syrup to pour over the cakes, and a mascarpone filling and topping.  To make the syrup, I used another strong espresso, which I put into a saucepan with demerara sugar and the other half of the cardamom seed powder.  When I tasted it, I got more cardamom than coffee, so I put a teaspoon of instant coffee in to give the syrup more of a coffee kick.  Once the cakes came out of the oven, I made holes in them and poured the syrup over the top.

I made the filling by mixing mascarpone cheese and caster sugar in the KitchenAid.  The recipe, again, uses instant espresso powder to flavour the topping and also adds milk.  I made yet another strong espresso and didn’t put any milk in.  I was worried that the mixture would be too wet.  It seemed to work without the milk.  It tasted fine to me anyway.

Once the syrup-soaked cake had cooled, I sandwiched the two halves together with the mascarpone cream.  I also covered the top of the cake and covered it with roasted pistachios. Here it is.

P1010795 (640x480) Taste-wise I found this cake confusing.  The cardamom was very strong and, when I was eating it, not particularly pleasant.  It was as though someone had had the bright idea of disguising medicine in cake. My mom used to do this kind of thing;  cod-liver oil in orange juice,  travel sickness tablets buried inside a Finger of Fudge.  I’m not saying that the cake was anywhere near as bad as cod-liver oil in orange juice, it just tasted a bit odd.   That said, even though it tasted odd when I was eating it, it did have a really pleasant after-taste. Perhaps it was the topping – the only bit that didn’t have any cardamom in it.

I said that I thought the combination of flavours in this cake sounded interesting.  They were, but I don’t think “interesting” is what I necessarily want from a slice of cake and cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.


Delia Smith v coffee shop – lemon and poppy seed muffins

We had a lot of lemons in the house this week.  I’d put two big bags of them on the shopping list because I was planning to make a lemon pudding and I had a cold coming on.  The cold came and I failed miserably on the pudding front and, although, I did drink a lot of hot lemon, there were still a lot left over.  I had to find something lemony to bake.  I decided on the iced lemon and poppy seed muffins from Delia’s Cakes.  I used to be a fan of Cafe Nero’s, although I haven’t had one for ages.  The children prefer Costa for its giant Belgian chocolate teacakes and, when I’m by myself, I usually go all independent.

Delia’s recipe is for four large muffins.  Four didn’t seem enough, so I decided to bake double. As the recipe advises, (advice which I know I should, but rarely do follow) I carefully weighed out all of my ingredients before I started.

I sifted plain flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. I had a bit of trouble with the baking powder measurements.  The recipe says use a dessertspoonful, but I’m not too sure how big this is. My measuring spoons are in tablespoon, teaspoon and parts of a teaspoon size.  Google says that it’s two teaspoons (a tablespoon is three), but I didn’t think of looking it up at the time – I wasn’t really concentrating on getting my measurements exactly right because my two year old had just come stomping into the kitchen swinging her potty in the air. It was empty thank the Lord, but somewhat distracting.

I whisked lemon juice and zest, poppy seeds, eggs, golden caster sugar, milk and melted butter together in a separate bowl and then sieved the flour mixture into it.  Delia says that the second sieve is crucial because, with muffins, you don’t do very much mixing when you add they wet ingredients to the dry ones.  In this case, the recipes says that you should fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones in about 15 seconds.  It did take me a bit longer than 15 seconds to get all of the flour folded in – I don’t think my spoon was big enough.

I put the mixture into cases in a muffin tin and found that I had enough for twelve, rather than eight.  Delia’s recipe does specify a particular make of muffin tin, so perhaps mine is smaller, or perhaps my muffin cases are smaller, or maybe it’s both.

I baked the muffins at 180° fan for thirty minutes, let them cool, and covered them with icing made from sieved fondant icing sugar and lemon juice.  They ended up looking like this.

P1010620 (800x600)

They do look bit like the picture of the muffins in the book, although the icing isn’t as neat. Taste-wise, they didn’t go down too well with my child testers (they licked off the icing and left the rest), or those with false teeth, “too many poppy seeds”, they said,  “they get stuck”, and my husband didn’t like them at all, “they’re bitter and flat”, he said, “but they are cakes so I’ll eat them anyway”.

I thought they were fine.  The icing was like lemon sherbet, and, I thought that the muffins were, as promised, more moist and lemony than the coffee shop versions I’ve been busily tasting over the past few days, although they were nowhere near as big.  On the downside, I think my denture wearers were right.  There were too many poppy seeds.  Three-quarters of the recipe amount rather than double would have been fine.

On the whole, in the contest between coffee shop and homemade, I’d give this one to homemade, although, due to my rigorous taste testing, I’m not sure I’ll feel like a lemon muffin for quite some time.


Delia Smith’s Christmas Stollen


stollensliceresizeIt’s almost the middle of December and, so far, any festive feelings have eluded me.  In fact, my bah-humbuggery has been so extreme that, last week, I had a better time filling in my tax return than writing my Christmas cards.  I know, I know, I should have been, and I was, ashamed of myself.  I decided to attempt Delia Smith’s Christmas stollen to cheer myself up.  It looked great in the picture; fruit bread, dotted with glacé cherries, apricots and candied peel, with a big slab of marzipan running through the middle.  Very Christmassy.

Delia’s recipe first mixes all of the dry ingredients together.  These are; strong white flour, easy bake yeast, salt, currants, candied peel, dried apricots, glacé cherries, chopped almonds, lemon zest and caster sugar.  I usually have half a pot of chopped mixed peel at the back of the cupboard that will have been there since last Christmas.  I don’t know what I’ve been doing with mixed peel lately, but my pot wasn’t there (luckily, I found this out before I started on the stollen).  There wasn’t any in Leamington Spa so, following Delia’s advice, I ordered a pot of whole mixed peel online.  She says that it tastes much better that the ready chopped stuff.  She’s right.  My new chop-it-yourself mixed peel actually tastes like fruit rather than year old sugary cardboard.

Anyway, back to the stollen.  After mixing the dry ingredients together, I added some softened butter (Delia always uses spreadable butter in her recipes, but I never have any), warm milk and a beaten egg and mixed it up until everything came together into a pretty sticky dough.  I tipped it out, kneaded it a little, put it back into the bowl, covered it with clingfilm and left it to prove.


In the recipe, Delia makes it clear that the proving should be done at room temperature.  She says that the dough has to double in size, and that the time that this will depend on various factors – it could be as long as two hours.  I checked after an hour.  Nowhere near. I did my ironing and checked again.  Still nothing like doubled in size.  I’m not sure exactly how long it took for the dough to double in size in the end, but I do know it was well over two hours before I thought it was big enough.  What a great excuse for a Home and Away bingewatch.

I turned the dough out onto a floured board, whacked it a couple of times to knock the air out, and gave it a bit of a knead.  The next step was to roll out the dough into a rectangle which, Delia says, should be 15x20cm.  My dough measured about that before it even saw the rolling-pin.  I flattened it out into to rectangle and it was quite a bit bigger than 15×20.  My stollen was going to be a monster.

I had some marzipan left over from the spiced almond cake I made a couple of weeks ago.  I rolled it into the required sausage shape and made a pretty big mistake by putting it lengthways down the middle of the dough.  It should have been widthways.  I had read the recipe, but I didn’t pick up on this until I watched the online video of how to make the perfect Christmas stollen.  This meant that Delia’s stollen, with the widthways marzipan, was short and fat and mine was long and thin (actually it was long, but not that thin).   I rolled up the stollen (lengthways) and put it onto a baking sheet to prove again.

This time, the proving was to be done in a warm place.  I thought I was being pretty clever by putting it in the oven at its lowest setting (50º) and leaving the door open.  The stollen did double in size in an hour as it was supposed to, but the stuff I’d used to grease the baking sheet melted and, when I took it out of the open oven, the stollen was swimming in melted butter.  Since there was nothing I could do about it, I baked it at 160º fan for 40 minutes.  When it came out of the oven I let it cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving it to a wire rack.  I iced it with icing sugar mixed with lemon juice and left it to cool completely.

Here is my monster.


It doesn’t really taste like any other stollen I’ve had (usually from Marks and Spencer), but it’s OK (and doesn’t seem any worse for its butter bath during proving).  It’s a sweet and fruity bread and, as soon as you hit the marzipan in the middle, it tastes like Christmas.  I’m still not feeling 100 per cent festive, but my Christmas stollen has given me a bit of a push in the right direction.




Mary Berry’s almond spice cake

almondcakeresizeMy heart popped into my mouth when Matthew’s pre-school teacher gleefully announced that we were going to be looking after Abigail for the weekend.  Oh my God a gerbil!

I saw myself making a mad dash to Pets At Home on Monday morning to find a replacement, or, worse still, explaining to a roomful of weeping four-year olds why Abigail wasn’t coming back.  The panic in my eyes must have been obvious. I was hastily reassured that Abigail was, in fact, a teddy who was weekending in the home of each pre-schooler in turn.  She was pretty good in the kitchen as it happened, although I did have to prise the cooking brandy out of her hands on more than one occasion.bearresizeI made an almond spice cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible this week.  As well as almonds, it’s flavoured with cinnamon and cloves, and it has a layer of marzipan in the middle.  I was making it for my aunt’s birthday.  She loves all things marzipan, so this cake would be ideal.

I started with the marzipan.  Having made it a few times before, with varying degrees of success, I decided to go with Delia Smith’s  recipe.  I’ve always had decent results with her recipe (plus it’s got brandy in it – a bit of booze will sway me every time).

I mixed icing sugar, golden caster sugar and a beaten egg, and whisked over a pan of simmering water.  Since the last time I attempted marzipan, I’ve acquired an electric hand-whisk (my husband bought it to make a gorgeous passion fruit soufflé). I got to the thick and fluffy stage that usually takes ten minutes of hand whisking and fifteen recovery time in a few seconds.  I should have got one of these ages ago, instead of wishing for Mrs Patmore’s arms.

I added almond extract to the mixture and then, accidentally, flooded it with brandy (I was supposed to use a teaspoonful and I don’t quite know what happened – maybe it’s me that needs watching and not the bear).  I added ground almonds to the mix (I needed a lot more than the recipe amount because of the brandy) and kneaded the mixture until I had a firm paste.  I took 100g of it (I had about  375g in all – I predict I’ll be trying several marzipan-based bakes in the next few weeks) and rolled out a circle to fit my cake tin.

For the cake itself, I mixed softened butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, baking power, cinnamon and ground cloves.  I used the electric whisk again and got into a bit of a mess.  I think I’ll reinstate the KitchenAid for cake mixes next time.

I spooned half of the mixture into my (greased and bottom-lined) cake tin, and then discovered that it was an inch bigger than the tin required by the recipe.  It was too late, I was in too much of a mess, and I’d already rolled my marzipan to fit, so I didn’t attempt to search for a smaller tin.  I put the marzipan on top and put the rest of the mixture on top of the marzipan.  It went into the oven at 160° fan for an hour.  I gave it a few minutes to cool in the tin, then turned it onto a wire rack.  It looked OK.

Once it had cooled I topped it with a mixture of butter, light muscovado sugar and cream that I warmed together in a saucepan.  It smelled lovely.  I haven’t really notice before, but the muscovado is cigarette-paper smokey.  Delicious.

Here’s the final cakealmondcakeresize

It’s a really good tea-time cake, although it does taste sugary sweet, rather than almondish.  Perhaps I should have added more almond extract as well as ground almonds to the marzipan.  My aunt enjoyed it anyway which, for this cake, was all that really mattered.


Free from… Delia Smith’s moist chocolate and rum squares

This bank holiday Monday was bleak.  Smudged grey sky, hammering rain, lights on from breakfast to bed time.  I needed chocolate cake.  The only thing was, was that this week on the Great British Bake Off, it was “Free from… week”.  Now, I’m much more at the “full of… or what’s the point?” end of the baking spectrum, so the thought of baking gluten, sugar or dairy free was almost as depressing as the weather.

I flicked through my books and decided to use Delia Smith’s Cakes.  The spiel on the front says that at least 90% of the recipes can be made gluten-free, and Delia says that there is very little difference between cakes made with gluten and those that use gluten-free substitutes.  I wasn’t quite convinced, so I went for one of the four recipes in the book that were “naturally” gluten-free,  moist chocolate and rum squares.  Rum.  I could put Buena Vista Social Club on the stereo and pretend I was somewhere sunny. Actually, I ended up with song made out of a story by Julia Donaldson (creator of the Gruffalo). It’s called “A Squash and a Squeeze”.  Naomi’s choice.  It does have a calypso rhythm, so I suppose my Caribbean daydream wasn’t totally shattered, and the toddler boogie that accompanied it cheered me up no end.

Back to the baking.  The cake uses ground almonds instead of flour, and is given a lift by beaten egg whites. It’s then topped with icing made from chocolate, cream and rum.  I started off by beating unsalted butter in the KitchenAid.  Delia Smith tends to use spreadable butter in her cakes and this one was no exception.  I didn’t have any spreadable, so I used room temperature block butter and gave it a good beating before I put any of the other ingredients in.  I added golden caster sugar and five egg yolks and beat the mixture until the ingredients came together.  Next came ground almonds and chopped dark chocolate (the recipe says that you should use grated chilled chocolate for this bit.  I did try grating, but the chocolate must have been too warm and kept melting on my fingers).

The next step was to whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.  Since I only have one bowl for the KitchenAid, I’d taken the chance that whisking the egg whites by hand would be easier than beating the butter.  A trick my mom always uses when whipping cream is to let the cream come up to room temperature before even thinking about a whisk.  I did this with the eggs whites and I think it worked, they were at soft peaks stage long before my whipping arm locked up.  Definitely the right decision, given how high the KitchenAid was jumping when I put the almonds into the mixture.


I folded the egg whites into the cake mixture in two batches, put the mixture into a lined tin and into the oven at 150° fan.

The recipe says that the cake should be baked for 55 minutes to an hour, and feel springy in the centre when it’s done.  This baking time was about right.  I took the cake out just before the hour was up.  I left it to cool in the tin, then lifted it out in the lining and slid it onto to plate.  Then I left it alone. The icing required rum.  It would be safer to wait until the children had gone to bed.

The cake topping was simple.  I melted dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water, then added a tablespoon each of double cream and rum.  Once it had cooled and started to thicken I sprinkled the top of the cake with more rum – the recipe says use a tablespoon – I was a bit more liberal.  I spread the icing on the top of the cake, waited until it had set, and divided into squares.  I had twelve decent-sized squares, and three bite-sized pieces from along the edge.063

The cake was light and moist and tasted chocolatey with a hint of rum (Jon would have liked more) and, I don’t think it lost anything from being gluten-free.  I can’t help feeling that I’ve cheated a bit in the free-from challenge though in making a cake which was always meant to be made with ground almonds instead of flour.  I just didn’t want to take the risk of making a horrible cake to go with such a horrible day.   I will give “proper” gluten-free baking a go at some point – I do own a bag of gluten-free flour.  I have until 24 April next year before it goes off.


Madeira Cake: Delia v Mary

The Bake Off started on Wednesday night with black forest gateaux wrapped in glossy tempered chocolate, decorated with chocolate elephants and two foot high caramel trees – and this was only Week One.  I thought I ought to try something Bake Off inspired this week, but I couldn’t face another three-day-three-spooner, and I didn’t fancy chocolate.  I decided to go with the signature bake, a nice and simple Madeira cake.  Madeira cake has been on my list for a while, not as an adventurous bake, but one to compare with the Marks and Spencer version.  Definitely M&S, rather than Mr Kipling.  That’s where my aunt always bought hers on our shopping trips to Dudley in pre-out-of-town-shopping-centre days when Dudley had an M&S of it’s very own.

I flicked through my books to find a recipe.  Delia has one in Delia’s Cakes as does Mary Berry in the Baking Bible.  The two were so different that I decided to ditch Marks & Spencer and bake both.  I started with Delia Smith.

Delia describes a Madeira cake as a bit of a “plain Jane”, lovely when a piece of really good plain cake is all you want.  I have to agree.  My last two cakes, the opera cake and hazelnut roulade, have been a bit on the fancy side and, to be honest, I’ve been looking forward to something a bit simpler and more comforting.  Something that goes with a big mug of tea, rather than earl grey in a china cup.

To make Delia’s cake, I lined a loaf tin with baking parchment – well, I almost lined it – I hadn’t noticed that I’d been running out.  I lined the bottom, greased the sides really well and crossed my fingers that I’d be able to get the cake out of the tin in one piece.  For the cake itself, I sifted plain flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl, added softened butter (the recipe stipulates spreadable butter, but I didn’t have any), eggs, golden caster sugar and lemon zest.  Then it struck me that I might have weighed the flour including the weight of my sieve,  I wasn’t sure whether I had or not, and, having seen the finished version, I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think there’s a good chance that this is what happened.

I used the KitchenAid to mix for about a minute until the mixture was smooth.  The next step was to add enough milk so that the mixture was a creamy consistency and dropped easily off a spoon when tapped against the mixing bowl.  The recipe says 2-3 tablespoons.  I only needed the one.  I put the mixture into my loaf tin (it didn’t really fill it that well – perhaps indicative of the fact that there wasn’t enough flour in it…).  It went into the oven at 150° fan for an hour.  Oh – wait I put some thin strips of lemon peel onto the top.  The recipe says that, for a traditional cake, you put a thin slice of candied citrus peel on the top before baking.  I didn’t have any candied peel, so used ordinary lemon peel and, I have to admit, it did come out looking a little burned.

Delia Smith's recipe

Delia Smith’s recipe

There was a good crack on the top though (Mary thought this most important on the Bake Off), and it did smell lovely.

Onto Mary Berry’s cake.  Mary uses a round tin, rather than a loaf tin, self-raising flour rather than plain, white caster sugar rather than golden, and she adds ground almonds to the mix.  The oven temperature is also higher.  The only things that are the same are the use of eggs and grated lemon rind, the cooking times, and the fact that you should leave the cake in the tin for ten minutes before turning it out.

The method for Mary Berry’s cake is very simple.  Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and beat for a minute until everything is combined.  Mary’s cake went into the oven at 160° fan for an hour.  After half an hour, I put my strips of lemon peel onto the top of the cake (exactly as the recipe says).  Both cakes came out of the oven garnished with burned lemon peel.

Mary Berry's recipe

Mary Berry’s recipe

A bit more detail on how to make candied peel would be useful in both recipes – especially since, in the Bake Off, the judges thought it was an important part of the cake.  There was even a test to see if it was done properly.  If the peel falls onto the plate with a clatter, then it’s OK.

Jon and I tested the cakes last night with a glass or two (as always) of Madeira – you have to do these things right.  His was a blind test as he didn’t know which cake was which.  We both declared Mary the winner.  Her cake was moister, cakeier and just more satisfying.  I’d definitely make this one again – probably without the candied peel. After all, we still have three-quarters of a bottle of Madeira to go.