Tag Archives: Mary Berry

Mary Berry’s English Cherry Cake

It’s back to the blog this week after a bit of a break.  It’s been a time thing. Back in September I imagined that, with my little boy at school five days a week, I’d have more time for baking and photographing and writing about it.  Turned out I was being ultra-naive.  With a three o’clock pick up time, I don’t have time to make complicated things any more (unless I can spread them over several days) and taking photos has become really difficult, given that I have to be on the look out for the sticky fingers that are itching to “help”.

For the next few weeks, I’ve decided not to be particularly adventurous, I’m going to try a few of the more basic things in my books.  If I can make a fine marjolaine or fraisier surely I I’ll be able to manage a cherry cake, lemon drizzle or scones. Let’s see shall we?

I decided to start with a cherry cake.  I used a recipe for English cherry cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  I had all of the ingredients already so a trip to the shops wasn’t required.  What a relief after the expedition I’d had trying to find yuzu juice. The recipe also only had four instructions.  What could go wrong?

Step one:  I greased and lined my cake tin and put the oven on.

Step Two: I quartered 200g of glacé cherries, rinsed them, drained them and dried them with kitchen paper.  I knew that I had to dry the cherries really well to prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake.  I had an inkling that I hadn’t done this well enough, but I had used half a roll of Bounty so I decided to stop.

Step three: I sieved self-raising flour and baking power into a bowl, added ground almonds, softened butter, caster sugar and eggs and beat everything together.  Mary Berry’s instructions say you should do this for a minute. She doesn’t say what you should do it with.  A wooden spoon, an electric mixer, the KitchenAid?  I don’t know why , but I used a wooden spoon and beat the mixture until my arm felt as though it was going to spontaneously combust – about 10 seconds.  I had a rest and carried on until I’d accumulated a minute of beating time.  Next time I’ll be using  electricity.

I folded in about two-thirds of the cherries (I was keeping some back to poke into the top since I wasn’t convinced they wouldn’t sink), and poured the mixture into my cake tin.  Once I’d put the rest of the cherries in, my cake looked like this.

Step four:  I put the cake into the oven at 140° Fan.  The baking time in the recipe was 1½ hours at the least, so I watched a couple of episodes of Home and Away and picked up my little boy from school before I checked it.  The cake was cooked but it had sunk in the middle and it looked like all of the cherries, even the ones I’d scattered onto the surface, had sunk to the bottom.  So much for going back to basics.  I double checked that I’d used self-raising flour and baking powder, instead of plain and bicarbonate of soda.  I had.

Mary Berry says that a cake may sink if you’ve put too much or not enough baking powder in (helpful), if the cake was taken out of the oven before it was cooked, or if the oven door was opened before it had time to set. It could also be that the mixture had been over beaten.  The cake was definitely cooked when I checked it, and I hadn’t opened the door at all during the cooking time – I was too engrossed in Home and Away.  I didn’t think that, given my struggle with the wooden spoon,  I could have over beaten the mixture either.  It must have been the baking powder.  Too much or too little I do not know.

Here’s a slice of the finished article.

I don’t think my cake would have got me through “cake week” on the Bake Off, but as a cake with cherries on the bottom it went down very well.  The kids and Jon loved it despite its imperfections.  Staying with the basics for a while might well be a very good idea.  I need the practice.



Mary Berry’s Quick Boiled Fruit Cake

It’s been cold this week, and suddenly, the world seems much scarier.  The answer to a chill in the bones and the feeling that you want to hide under your duvet?  Cake.  A big, solid fruit cake.  The kind that wouldn’t look out of place on Marilla Cuthbert’s table at Green Gables when the Minister came to tea.  Something homely and reassuring.  A cake that says, “everything’s going to be fine.”

I wanted something that wouldn’t take too long.  I didn’t want a cake that I’d have to feed with booze every day for a week before I could cut into it – I’ll save that for Christmas.  I found a recipe for a quick boiled fruitcake in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  It shouldn’t take long if the title was anything to go by, and the boiled fruit bit sounded interesting and very Marilla Cuthbert-like.  I decided to give it a try.

The first step was to heat a can of condensed milk, butter, raisins, sultanas, currants and glacé cherries in a pan until the butter had melted.  Condensed milk.  My parents love it.  They say they used to have it on sandwiches.  A condensed milk sandwich?  I can’t quite see it myself. Would you butter the bread first?  How would you cut it?

Anyway, once the butter had melted, I brought the mixture to the boil, simmered for five minutes, then took it off the heat and left it to cool.

I mixed self-raising flour, cinnamon and mixed spice in a bowl, added eggs and the fruit mixture and stirred.  Not well enough I’m afraid, since when I put the batter into my cake tin, there was unincorporated flour all over the place.  I gave it another quick stir while it was in the tin.  Not a step that I’d recommend.

I baked the cake at 130° fan for an 1¾ hours.  It was supposed to be well risen, golden brown, the top should be firm, and a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.  I had three out of four (my cake was conker coloured rather than golden brown, but it had been that way for most of the cooking time).  I took it out of the oven, let it cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turned it out.

Here it is

quick boiled fruit cake


It’s a really good fruit cake this.  It doesn’t take too long to make, it isn’t difficult, it’s packed with fruit and warm spice, and it tastes good.  A really comfy cake to see us through these really dark November days.

Mary Berry’s Marjolaine

“Bakers, you have three hours,” said Sue Perkins at the start of the technical challenge for dessert week on the Great British Bake Off.  Three hours.  I started making Mary Berry’s marjolaine at 9.30am and finished just as An Extra Slice started on BBC 2,  twelve hours later.  True, I did take a bit of a break to pick the children up from school and nursery, but I still took half a day longer than the allotted Bake Off time.

I used the recipe from the Great British Bake Off website, but it’s also available on BBC Food, The Bake Off site says that this is one for the super-organised multi-tasker.  That’s not me. Sometimes it’s a struggle to focus on one thing, any more and I start to go slightly mad (I wasn’t always like this, I blame the children).  Anyway, the marjolaine…


Here is it.  At 9.30 on Friday morning though, this was a long,  long way in future.

I started by grinding almonds and hazelnuts in our teeny-tiny food processor.  There were a few big pieces left in the grinder, but it had started to overheat, so I took them out and ate them.  I didn’t want to risk them in the meringue.  I know it’s supposed to have a bit of a bite, but I didn’t want to break anybody’s teeth.  I spread the nuts onto a baking tray and put them in the oven at 160° fan for about 12 minutes.  I used the twelve minutes to wonder whether I could have used ready ground almonds, and whether it would have been OK to roast the nuts before grinding them.  I put the nuts into a bowl and, once they were cool, I added caster sugar and cornflour.

Next came the meringue.  I whisked some egg whites in the KitchenAid until there were frothy, then I cranked up the speed and added caster sugar tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture was thick and glossy.

meringueI folded the nuts, sugar and cornflour mix into the meringue and  divided the mixture between two Swiss roll tins.  The recipe says that the tins should be 30cmx20cm.  Mine are a little bit bigger.  It didn’t really matter, I had enough meringue to comfortably fill them both.  They went into the oven at 130° fan.  I checked them after 45 minutes.  They were supposed to be lightly golden and firm to the touch.  Mine didn’t seem that golden, but they were certainly firm.  A bit on the crisp side even.  Oh well.  I opened the oven door and left them to cool.

While the meringues were in the oven I made the ganache.  Does this count as multi-tasking?  I put some dark chocolate into a bowl. I had some trouble with percentages of cocoa again.  The recipe called for 46% cocoa solids.  This is Tesco’s own plain chocolate.  The only thing was, I hadn’t bought enough.  I had to make a quick trip to our nearest shop (an Asda garage) to get some more, and they only had Green & Blacks 70%.  Perhaps this is why, when I poured hot cream over the top, it didn’t really melt.  I had to put it into the microwave.  Probably a terrible sin in the baking world.  I decided that, since it was, mainly, going into the middle of the cake, it wouldn’t really matter that much.  Nobody would care whether it was glossy or not, as long as it was edible and tasted of chocolate.

Next for the praline to go into the praline buttercream.  I toasted some blanched almonds in a frying pan.  The kitchen, by this time, smelled absolutely lovely.  Chocolate, toasted nuts.  Delicious.  I then put caster sugar and water into a pan and heated it.

I bought a sugar thermometer for my very first post on Let’s Bake the Books, my doughnut cupcakes, and I know I’ve complained about not being able to hold the thermometer and swirl the sugar simultaneously, because the clip that holds the thermometer onto the pan is too high so I have to hold onto the thermometer all the time.  I found out this week that, guess what?  The clip moves.  I can move the clip up and down to fit my pan.  I’ve said before that I’m not an unintelligent person, but sometimes I do start to wonder.  Anyway, I dissolved the sugar in some water, swirled it around the pan a bit and waited for it to reach 170°.  Once the mixture hit the magic number, I took it off the heat, tipped in the almonds, gave it a bit of a stir, and poured the mixture onto a lined baking tray.

almond brittle I waited for it to cool, broke it up and blitzed it in the food processor.

On to the buttercream.  The buttercream in the recipe is for French buttercream where you whisk up eggs yolks, pour in sugar syrup, and then add butter.  To me, this seems like a multi-tasking nightmare in itself.   I have tried to make this type of buttercream before with very poor results.  The sugar syrup solidified on the side of the bowl, and the buttercream ended up with a really slimy texture.  Anyway, I manhandled the KitchenAid as best I could across the kitchen and put it next to the hob.  I put it onto the slowest speed and started whisking my egg yolks.  I clipped my sugar thermometer onto my pan and dissolved sugar and water and heated to 115° (soft ball stage).  Once there, I poured it quickly, and with as much precision as I could manage, into the bowl of the KitchenAid and whisked until the bowl was cool. Then I whisked in some softened butter.  I did a taste test and it was fine.  Much better than my last attempt. I folded in the praline, tasted again and it was very good.  Very good indeed.

This was where I left for school pick-up.  I came back to the task of assembly a couple of hours later feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Assembly started with the meringues.
meringues for marjolain

I cut them both  in half lengthways.  There was a bit of breakage, but nothing too drastic.  I put the most stable slice onto a very long serving plate (usually only used for carrots at Christmas dinner) and spread a layer of the buttercream over the top. I put another meringue slice on top and topped that with a layer of ganache (which had to be microwaved again so that it was thin enough to pipe).  Another layer of meringue and buttercream went on top of that, followed by the final meringue slice.  I covered the cake with the remaining buttercream and covered the sides with toasted flaked almonds.  This was a job and a half.  I  got covered in buttercream, and the almonds didn’t stick very well at all.  Finally, I piped chocolate ganache around the edge of the cake and parallel lines over the top and filled the sections with pistachios and flaked almonds (I was supposed to use chopped hazelnuts, but I didn’t buy enough so I used almonds instead.  I had a big bag of them).

marjolaineThen, I treated myself to a rather large gin.

The marjolaine was enormous and impossible to eat in anything other than huge slabs.  Here’s one of them.

marjolaine sliceI was pretty pleased with how the cake turned out.  I think the meringue may have been a bit on the dry side, but it tasted really good.  Very chocolatey, very nutty and very indulgent.  Make it again though?  I’m not sure I have the time.

Viennese Whirls

I did have good intentions when I said I was going to bake the technical challenges from the Great British Bake Off.  I started well with the jaffa cakes, but it has taken me a few weeks to catch up with Mary’s Viennese whirls  and the dampfnudel.   I don’t think I’ll be attempting lacy pancakes any time soon.  I can’t really see the point.

Anyway, Viennese whirls, here they are.

Viennese whirls

I really didn’t think they’d be too much trouble.  A bit of jam making, a bit of piping.  What could go wrong?

I started by boiling raspberries and jam sugar together.  I didn’t have a thermometer to tell me when the mixture hit jam o’clock, so I followed the recipe and boiled it for four minutes.  I poured it into a bowl and left it to cool.  It might set.  It might not.  I had no idea.

Next, I drew some circles on baking paper as templates and started on the biscuit mixture.  I softened unsalted butter in the microwave.  I left it a bit too long.  It was definitely on the melting side of very soft when I took it out.   I didn’t fancy starting again so I put it into the KitchenAid with some icing sugar, draped a tea towel over the top to avoid an icing sugar cloud and beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture was pale and fluffy.  I added plain flour and cornflour and mixed again.

Now for the piping.  Piping is not and, I don’t think ever will be, one of my baking strengths.  I did invest in some disposable piping bags after my last piping disaster, but I still ended up with an overflow of biscuit mix that oozed over the top of the bag, down my arms and onto the kitchen table.

I had a terrible time piping my biscuits onto the templates.  I don’t think my piping nozzle was big enough, and I got stringy, stingy, looking blobs.  The mixture was supposed to make twelve whirls – so twenty-four biscuits.  I had an awful lot left over.  Instead of beefing up my twenty-four biscuits, I made extra.  I also whirled from the outside in.  I’m not sure where I’d left my head.  It certainly wasn’t in the kitchen.  My Viennese whirls looked pitiful.

Viennese whirl mixtureI baked them for 15 minutes at 170° fan.  They came out looking very sad and thin.

Once they’d cooled I sandwiched my thousand and one biscuits (I didn’t have quite that many, but it did feel like it) with the raspberry jam and buttercream which I made with butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract.

I’d tried a couple of the biscuits before making the jam and buttercream sandwiches. They tasted overdone and had a sandy texture.  I wasn’t looking forward to doing a final taste test. Perhaps this one would best be left to the children and husband.

You know what though?  They were completely transformed by the filling.  True, they were nowhere near the melt-in-the-mouth Viennese whirls that Mr Kipling makes, but the jam and buttercream masked the imperfections in the biscuits well enough.  I may try making them again one day, but only when I’ve sorted out my piping problems.

Mary Berry’s Great British Bake Off Jaffa Cakes

The Bake Off is back, and my goal for the series is to bake the technical challenges.   First off then, Jaffa cakes.  Their appearance on cake week must have put an end to any discussion of whether they’re cakes or biscuits.  Here’s what I ended up with.

jaffa cakesI found two Bake Off related Jaffa cake recipes online.  The first from BBC Food, and the second from The Great British Bake Off site itself.  They were slightly different.  The BBC recipe made half the amount of sponge as the Bake Off recipe, and it used dark chocolate with 36% cocoa solids, whereas the Bake Off recipe used chocolate with 46%.  I decided to make the quantity of sponge from the Bake Off recipe, but, otherwise, go with the BBC.

Now, I’ve had trouble finding dark chocolate with only 36% cocoa solids before.  When I made Mary Berry’s chocolate marbled ring cake I ended up using Tesco’s cooking chocolate, and even then the percentage was too high.  I decided to see what Google had to say about plain chocolate, and guess what.  It’s Bournville.  36% plain chocolate is Cadbury’s Bournville.  I know there’s no advertising on the BBC but couldn’t they have given us just the smallest hint?

Off I went to Tesco to get the Bournville.  They didn’t have it.  I went to Marks, and the two proper sweet shops in Leamington.  No luck.  There was single estate chocolate with 75+% cocoa solids, chocolate with chilli, with salted caramel, with lime.  No Bournville anywhere.   I headed back to Tesco for another bar of its cooking chocolate and, on the way, passed Poundland.  Would Poundland have any?  I decided to give it a try.  There it was.  Piles and piles of it.  My 36% chocolate problem has been solved forever.

The first step in the Jaffa cake recipe was to make the jelly.  You make up a pack of orange jelly with a lot less water than usual, add some orange zest and pour it onto a baking tray to set.  My baking tray was a bit bigger than the size specified in the recipe, so I was a bit worried that my jelly would be a too thin.  I didn’t worry about getting the jelly off the tray until I tried it.  Jon pointed out that the Bake Off contestants had all lined their baking trays with baking paper or clingfilm.   I had thought about it, but didn’t.  If I’d needed a lining the recipe would have said so wouldn’t it?

Once set, my jelly was completely stuck inside the tray.  I ended up cutting my circle shapes out in the tin, peeling the left over jelly away and, very carefully, lifting the circles out with the help of a palette knife.  Some of them split, but most were OK.  They were going to be hidden under chocolate anyway.

After making the jelly, I moved onto the sponge.  I whisked up egg and sugar with an electric whisk.  The recipe says that the amount it so small that a whisk is better than a mixer.  I gave the mixture 5 minutes at top speed and ended up with a really light batter.  I spooned it carefully into my greased shallow bun tin and then noticed that my flour was still sitting in a bowl on the kitchen table.  I scraped the mixture back into my mixing bowl and folded in the flour, hoping that the butter from the bun tins wouldn’t ruin the mixture.  I spooned it back into the tin again and popped it into the oven at 160° fan.

jaffa cake mix in bun tinThe sponges were done in the 7 minutes stipulated by the recipe.  I let them cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turned them out onto a wire rack.  I had enough sponge mix left over to make six more.

I put my beautiful Bournville chocolate over a pan of simmering water to melt and played a bit of air guitar (I’d got as far Experience Hendrix on my ipod marathon, by far the coolest thing on there so far).  Once it had melted, I started to assemble the Jaffa cakes.  I’d already cut out my jelly circles, and I lifted them onto the top of the sponges.  An extremely fiddly task.  I managed it in the end, but with lots of ripped and concertinaed jelly circles that wouldn’t impress Mary Berry one bit (neither would the swearing that accompanied my attempts to slide them off the knife).

Now back to the chocolate.  It wasn’t cool enough and started to melt the jelly as I spooned it on.  I stopped, played a bit more air guitar, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and came back to it.  I spread the chocolate over the top of the cakes and make the required crisscross pattern.

Here they are.

finished jaffa cakesThe chocolate wasn’t very shiny, and the sponges were paler than the McVities version which I obviously had to buy as a taste comparison.  They were very nice though.  More cake-like than McVities and they had a more orangey orange flavour, if that makes sense.   McVities Jaffa cakes are good, Mary Berry’s are better, but, honestly, they were so fiddly to make that I don’t think I’ll be trying again.  One thing though.  Cadbury’s Bournville.  What a revelation.  You can keep your single estate rich dark chocolate from now on.  I’m off to Poundland.

Mary Berry’s Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake

marbled chocolate ring cake“We’re going to make a chocolate cake for your birthday Daddy.”

At least a chocolate cake with kids wouldn’t be as complicated as custard creams.

I couldn’t risk another disaster for Jon’s birthday (remember the ill-fated savarin), and  if I was going to have “help”,  I’d have to play it safe.  I turned to Mary Berry and a marbled chocolate ring cake from the Baking Bible.

First, I made sure that my ring cake tin was the right size (3 pints) and, rather than lining it with strips of baking parchment as per the recipe, I gave it a good coating of Cake-Release.  I always use this with ring and sphere cakes and it hasn’t yet let me down.  Not today Cake-Release.  Not today.

Mary Berry makes this cake using her usual all-in-one method i.e.  she uses a combination of self-raising flour and baking powder and mixes everything together at the same time.  I mixed softened butter (softened in the microwave at 360W for 20 seconds from room temperature), caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and baking powder in the KitchenAid.    I had some help with the eggs and bowl scraping. Matthew’s egg technique is improving by the day.  Next time it’ll be one-handed (he’s been watching Paul Hollywood).  I can’t wait!

Matthew mixing the cakeWe put about half of the mixture into the bottom of the cake tin, then added some cocoa powder and hot water into the rest, beat it together, and put that in too.

P1010834 (640x480)ring cake tin filled with chocolate mixtureWe swirled the mixture around the tin with a knife and put it into the oven at 160° fan.  It was cooked in the 40 minutes stipulated by the recipe.  I let the cake cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, loosened the edges with a palette knife, held my breath, turned the tin over and… thanked God for Cake Release.

The finished cake is covered with dark chocolate and then drizzled with milk chocolate.  I was a bit confused about the chocolate, since the recipe says “plain chocolate (39% cocoa solids).”  Is this figure for cocoa solids a minimum, a maximum, or an optimum? All of the posh dark chocolate has a much higher percentage.  The nearest I could get to 39% was Tesco’s own brand of plain cooking chocolate at 54%. I’m not sure whether Mary Berry would be happy with Tesco’s own. I think she has more of a Green & Blacks air about her.

To make the icing you’re supposed to melt the dark chocolate with water and butter over a pan of simmering water.  I forgot the butter.  I was distracted by a high-speed chase through the kitchen.  Superman and Batman were hot on the trail of Elsa who, apparently, needed rescuing from a lion.  I didn’t realise the butter was missing until I’d covered half the cake.

I let the icing set for about an hour, and then drizzled melted milk chocolate – Tesco’s own again I’m afraid – over the top.  The recipe does suggest using a piping bag for this bit, but I used a teaspoon, they’re a lot less fiddly than piping bags.

Perhaps my cake doesn’t quite have the finesse of the cake in the Baking Bible picture, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

P1010843 (640x480)

It was a good chocolate cake.  It looked and tasted good, although, perhaps there could have been more of the marble effect inside (I think we may have been a touch over-enthusiastic with the mixing).   I don’t think anyone noticed that the chocolate wasn’t of the highest quality, or that the icing lost its shine pretty quickly.  Nobody’s mentioned anything anyway.


Mary Berry’s Carrot and Orange Loaf

P1010741 (640x480) (640x480)After my painful attempt at pain au raisin last week (excuse the pun – I had several lined up for my post last week, I just didn’t have the heart to put them in), I scuttled back to the safety of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and made a nice and comfy carrot and orange loaf.  It’s not something I’d usually make, but I did have half a bag of carrots left over from Sunday lunch that were starting to go soft and on 4th April it was, according to the internet, International Carrot Day.

I started with an orange.  I grated the rind, cut the pith away as best I could and sliced it thinly – again as best I could.  Oranges are slippery beasts aren’t they?  I mixed the rind with softened butter, light muscovado sugar, self-raising flour, baking powder and mixed spice.

The recipe includes carrots, obviously – even my two-year-old would get this – but it doesn’t tell you what to do with them before adding them to the mixture.  I thought I could safely assume that peeling and grating would be the way to go, but what if was making my very first cake?

I peeled and grated them and then almost forgot to add them to the mix. I almost forgot the eggs as well.  This mixture is a bit dry, I thought, a bit on the biscuity side,  I’ll definitely be adding extra milk… then I saw my pile of carrots and basin of beaten egg sitting patiently on the work surface. This is the baker that, just a week ago, actually thought she might be up to pain au raisin.

Once the carrots and egg were in, I had a batter of perfect dropping consistency as required by the recipe.  I poured it into a loaf tin and baked it at 160° fan for an hour.  I crossed my fingers that it would rise.  When I put it into the oven, the mixture only came about halfway up the tin.

Rise it did and, after an hour, I took a good-looking loaf out of the oven, put my thin orange slices onto the top and brushed it over with honey.  It went back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  I let it cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turned it out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Here it is.
P1010741 (640x480)It was a really good loaf.  Moist with a tangy orange flavour.  Lovely with a cup of tea, and a great way to get rid of a load of old carrots.  Happy International Carrot Day.


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