Marmalade Cake

I liked the look of this sticky marmalade cake taken from the Great British Bake Off  the book to accompany the BBC2 series. I loved the taste – it really is a cracker, moist and sweet with a sharp kick courtesy of the marmalade.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

A really good Seville orange marmalade – home made or a top brand – with an intense bittersweet flavour plus decent chunks of peel transforms a simple creamed sponge mixture into a special treat.






For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking powder
3 tbs chunky marmalade
2 tsp full fat milk

To finish:
3 tbs marmalade
100g icing suger
2 tbs water

1 x 20cm round, deep cake tin or springclip tin, greased and lined with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 180º/350ºF/gas mark 4. Put the soft butter into a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer for a minute, or til creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, beating all the while, til the mixture becomes paler and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition; add a tablespoon of the flour with the last portion of egg. Sift the remaining flour, the salt and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold the mixture with a large metal spoon. When thoroughly combined, add the marmalade and milk and stir in.

Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a good golden brown and firm to the touch. (I tend to bake for 35, put a foil hat on it and put it back in the oven for 20 mins). Carefully turn the cake out onto a wire rack. Gently warm the second portion of marmalade and brush over the top of the warm cake. Leave to cool completely.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the warm water (I sometimes use half water, half lemon juice) and mix to a runny consistency using a wooden spoon. Spoon the icing over the cake and let it run down the sides – the chunks of marmalade will stick up through the icing. Leave til set before cutting.


Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake

Grapefruit CakeWe’ve told you how good Smitten Kitchen is and if you’re not yet convinced,  we’ve made Deb Perelman’s fabulous Grapefruit Cake just to show. Deb adapted the lemon drizzle cake by using grapefruit and olive oil in place of butter. Grapefruit syrup is poured over while still warm and it’s finished with a grapefruit glaze. Need any more convincing?


Butter for tin

190g plain flour. Plus more for tin

2 tbsp freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 1 to 2 large grapefruits)

100g granulated sugar

95g raw or light Muscovado sugar

120ml olive oil

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon baking powder

quarter teaspoon bicarbonate soda

half teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

80 ml buttermilk or plain yoghurt


2 tablespoons granulated sugar

80 ml grapefruit juice


120g icing sugar

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

Pinch table salt.


Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4. Butter and flour a 900g loaf tin.

In a large bowl rub the grapefruit zest into the sugars with your fingertips. This will bruise it and help release as much grapefruit essence as possible. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a second bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and buttermilk. Add the flour and the buttermilk mixtures, alternating between them, to the oil-and-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.

Spread the batter in the tin, smooth the top, and rap the pan on the counter a few times to ensure that there are no air bubbles trapped. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

 Grapefruit Syrup: Combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with the grapefruit juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

When cake is finished, let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting it onto a rack set over a tray. Poke holes in cake with a skewer or toothpick then spoon or brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool completely while it absorbs the syrup.

The Glaze: Combine the icing sugar, grapefruit juice, and pinch of salt in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour the glazeover the top of the cooled cake, and allow glaze to drizzle decoratively down the sides.

Upside-down Ginger & Pear Cake


It’s a bit fiddly (for me, probably not for you) but boy the effort for this wonderful cake is worth it. Possibly the most desirable, dark, sticky slab of gorgeousness since I perfected the marmalade cake. Well, you know, in my own way.





125g plain flour

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

A pinch of ground cloves

1 medium egg

125g light brown sugar

90g black treacle

125 ml sour cream (just put a couple of drops of lemon juice in ordinary milk. Same thing)

50g unsalted butter  melted


50g unsalted butter

100g light brown sugar

6 pear halves: tinned or very ripe


Heat the oven to 180c/fan160/gas 4. To make the topping, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the sugar and stir for a couple of minutes. Smooth over the base of a 20cm cake tin with a removable base, 7cm deep. Arrange the pears on top, cut side down.

To make the cake, sift the flour, bicarb and spices into a bowl. Blend the egg, sugar, treacle, soured milk and butter into another bowl and fold in the flour mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon for a minute or two. Put on a baking tray and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the edge and set aside to cool. Remove the collar and invert the cake onto a nice plate. Eat at room temperature – avoid chilling – with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Then sit back and try not do that ecstatic nodding, eyes rolling thing.




Yorkshire Parkin

Parkin, the thick, sticky gingerbread cake made of oatmeal, spices, treacle and butter, is traditionally eaten on November 5th,  Bonfire Night. It dates back many centuries, and is not confined to Yorkshire, but to all parts of the north of England and Scotland, where oatmeal was the staple grain.

I well remember as a child in Lancashire eating parkin round the bonfire after the fireworks, along with potatoes baked in the ashes with wonderfully blackened skin followed by Callard & Bowser’s treacle toffee.

Originally called perkin, it would have been baked on a hearthstone as more of a biscuit than a cake, but by the mid 19th century when ovens had replaced hearthstones, parkin had evolved into the thick, spicy, cake we know today.

Food historian Laura Mason, author of ‘Traditional Foods in Britain’ writes that
the use of spices suggests it was a cake made for feast days and holidays: ‘Those moments in the year which justify extravagant ingredients’.

Traditionally parkin is cut into squares and according to Dorothy Hartley in her ‘Food in England’ is best stored in a wooden box – not a tin – as the parkin is best kept a week before use and gets a pleasant, moist texture’.

Lottie Shaw makes ‘Seriously Good Yorkshire Parkin’ at the family bakery in Elland. It’s available from good food shops in the north of England  and by mail order. But it’s very simple, cheap and delicious to make your own. Make sure you don’t overcook it and keep it a week wrapped in greaseproof paper when it well develop a lovely moist, sticky texture.

Oatmeal Parkin
225g medium oatmeal
110g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
25g black treacle
110g butter
110g soft brown sugar
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to gas mark 1, 140ºC
Lightly grease a 20cm square cake tin with a removable base.

Put the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle into a pan and place over a gentle heat until the butter has melted. Don’t let it boil.

Measure the oatmeal, flour, ginger and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl and stir in the warmed syrup mixture until thoroughly combined.

Add the beaten egg and then the milk and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1.5-2 hours. Keep an eye on it so that it does not overcook and become too dry.

Cool the parkin in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out to cool.

When it’s cold wrap in greaseproof paper and store in a tin (or a wooden box) for  a week when it will have developed into a lovely, soft sticky cake.

The Great British Bake Off

I’m a bit weary of TV cookery programmes but I do admit to being a fan of The Great British Bake Off. It’s all so gentle and low-key with the charming Mary Berry and her side-kick Paul Hollywood and although it follows the usual formula of eliminating some poor competitor every week, it’s not as humiliating  as some. And Sue Perkins makes me laugh.

The programme has also confirmed that baking goes wrong for everyone, not just me.   I thought I was rubbish at it until I watched this programme but to my relief their mixtures curdled,  their cakes failed to rise, and their meringues wept sugar just like mine. So I’ll be there with them through the toughest ‘bakes’ and may even have a go myself now I’ve been given a copy of the book to go with the series. 

This latest book, The Great British Bake Off is subtitled How to turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers. Each chapter starts with a basic recipe, a sponge for instance, and then progresses in stages to more elaborate cakes like the Mocha Marbled Loaf, classed as  ‘Easy’ then to chocolate covered Chess Cake that ‘Takes a Little Time’ through to the ‘Showstopper’  Champagne Heart Cake, baking heights I can only fantasise about.

The ‘Technical Challenges’ and ‘Signature Bakes’ have been written by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, the rest by a friend and colleague in the Guild of Food Writers, Linda Collister.  She’s a talented and meticulous baker and has a raft of books to her name so you can be certain that between the three of them these recipes really work. I daren’t think how much time and skill it took to bake and prepare the ‘Showstopper’ bakes.

I did like the snowy gingerbread house with a difficulty rating of ‘Needs a Little Skill’. When I made one a few Christmases ago, never mind the skill factor, I also needed a lorry load of icing sugar paste to stick the whole wobbly edifice together. It didn’t look as elegant as the one in this book but you can get away with murder with a bag of Smarties and some drippy icing sugar snow. Can’t wait to see the contestants have a go at that one.



Apple Sharlotka

One of our favourite food blogs is Deb Perelman’s at Smitten Kitchen. Her tag is ‘fearless cooking from tiny kitchen in New York City’. It couldn’t get much further removed from our gaffs (a draughty, ancient hovel on the moors in my case and a chic, contemporary town house in Jill’s) but we love her take on pretty much everything, in particular cake. I’ve had a go at lots of her recipes – this was afters last Sunday. It’s easy, looks great, tastes brilliant. It’s pretty much a direct lift from her website. She’s married to a Russian, and it’s her mother-in-law’s take on the classic Apple Charlotte.


6 large tart apples, Bramleys or Granny Smiths

3 large eggs

200g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g plain flour

Ground cinnamon and icing sugar, to finish


Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 9 inch springform tin with greased parchment. Peel, halve and core your apples then chop them into medium size chunks. Pile them into the tin. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth, preferably with an electric whisk. Add the vanilla, then stir in the flour. The batter will be very thick. Pour it over the apples. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 mins then check it’s not burning. If it’s starting to brown, cover with a foil hat and resume cooking for another 15 or 20 mins. Check it’s cooked with a skewer – if it comes out clean, it’s done. Leave it in the tin for 10 mins, then remove and let it cool completely on a rack. Dust with the cinnamon and icing sugar. Best served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche. Or nibbled cold when you think no-one’s looking (Jill, I sussed you, you’ve got to get up earlier than that to catch me .. )



Author/publisher of the marvelous food quarterly Fire & Knives and all round good guy Tim Hayward has fled the metropolis with his family for the calmer waters of Cambridge; only a matter of weeks ago he re-launched the swiftly renovated city icon (est. 1922) Fitzbillies café and cake shop, preserving the elegant Art Nouveau façade, much to the relief of one Stephen Fry, who’s been tweeting his concern over its continuance.

Tim’s wife (and keen amateur baker) Alison Wright says they’ve had quite a lot of correspondence, electronically and otherwise from the old guard voicing fears about the future of the Fitzbillies Chelsea Bun, fondant frogs and chocolate mice; she’s happy to report they remain on the shelves. In fact nothing’s been taken away but a lot’s been added. There’s a cool café at one end with oak floors and exposed brickwork (discovered, complete with original wooden lintels after an over-enthusiastic whack with a lump hammer) furnished with one long table, so if you’re not keen on sharing your space, get over yourself. When we called in the other day stylish students tapping on iPads sat hugger-mugger with yummy mummies and gnarly profs sipping espressos.

In an airy dining area behind the shop with the kitchen in view, seasoned chef Rosie Sykes, who’s worked with some of the best (Shaun Hill, Alastair Little) moves hither and thither in a completely unruffled fashion producing plate after plate of good looking food. The menu borrows lightly from Fergus Henderson’s St John – uncomplicated, pared down and honest. Welsh rarebit it just that – no leaves, no chutney, just the beauteous thing on a plate (to the bafflement of one meticulously coiffured customer clearly expecting garnish). Crab pate, pickled cucumber, toast is a lesson in less is more, the pate fresh as a daisy, deep in flavour and nicely seasoned. Nutty, chunky bread is lightly toasted; it’s a triumph. Sausage roll with fruit ketchup catches my eye (as does 1938 beef pattie) but the duck ham, apple & geranium jelly wins. The jelly is delicately perfumed and proves a perfect adjunct to the preserved duck. There’s nothing on the lunch menu over nine quid, most things are around a fiver – phenomenal value.

And the Chelsea buns? Huge, sticky, mega-sweet and completely addictive. Calm down Stephen. Twitter ye not. All’s well on Trumpington Street.

Fitzbillies, 51-52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RG T: 01223 352 500

Perky Peacock

One of our favourite coffee stops is the Perky Peacock housed in the enchanting little postern house beneath York’s Lendal Bridge (just by York Rowing Club). We’re not the only ones. Call in at 9 a.m. and it could be the Aviva works canteen where everyone knows one another and Nicola Peacock knows just how everyone likes their coffee.

Today she was serving ‘the world’s best’ coffee as nominated by the dull sounding (with an even duller website) Beverage Standards Association who’ve just held their awards ceremony. Yes, I know every industry is awash with awards but I’m assured that this one does count.

The Attic coffee shop in King’s Square (more on that another day) won for Best Espresso in the UK, while Perky Peacock can offer that Best Coffee in the World. For connoisseurs like Nicola, that’s  a blend of 70% Guatamalan El Bosque and 30% El Salvador La Illusion. Nicola can wax lyrical about grapefruit tones and the like, but for me it was just a damn good coffee, strong, flavoursome and without bitterness. Served in a china cup, seated on a leather sofa with a copy of the Independent while the Ouse drifts by beneath us. Bliss.

If you haven’t been for a while, the Perky Peacock’s had a bit of an upgrade since we last reported. Double glazing makes it cosy warm for winter, the furniture got comfier. There’s an ever expanding  choice of soups, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits made by her talented mum Pat, a brilliant baker known as Pastry Pat (she’d walk it in the Great British Bake-Off). We resisted her divine looking cherry cake today but were rather proud to hear she’d recently made Squidbeak’s (sorry Dan Lepard’s) Tamarind Date Cake. Told you  it was good.

The Cooking School at Dean Clough

Saturday afternoon and a spot of restorative baking at the fabulous Dean Clough Cooking School. If you’ve never been the building alone is magnificent –  once the world’s largest carpet mill, it covers a 20 acre site in the centre of Halifax. Now it houses offices, a restaurant, a design shop, a world class art collection and this state-of-the-art Cooking School.

The affable Matthew Benson-Smith was our tutor who taught 17 of us how to make cupcakes, glazed fruit tarts and fruit scones. There’s something therapeutic about creaming butter and sugar and messing about with a piping bag and edible glitter. And at  the end of it, what a treat, we all sat down to finger sandwiches, cupcakes, scones, jam and clotted cream. A great day out.

Coming up ‘Kitchen Confidence’ for novice cooks, ‘Passionate About Pastry’ and the next course, Breadmaking on 20th April. See the website for the full list of courses:

Peggy Porschen’s Party Cakes

Did you see Kirstie and Phil fiddling with Peggy Porschen’s fondant fancies on last night’s Kirstie and Phil’s Perfect Christmas on Channel 4?

Oh, isn’t life so perfect in their world? Don’t you believe it. I made some gloriously kitsch heart-shaped fondant fancies from her book Peggy Porschen’s Pretty Party Cakesand by the time I’d finished icing them  the kitchen looked like a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Peggy Porschen is cake maker to the stars. She has a posh shop in Belgravia where she bakes exquisite cakes for the likes of Madonna, Elton John. She made  Stella McCartney’s wedding cake.

For the telly she showed Phil and Kirstie how to make dinky little Christmas parcels finished with a big icing bow. Well, actually they only made the icing bows so their kitchen remained in perfect order.

Mine on the other hand was chaos when I was persuaded to make her sparkly hearts for the school cake stall. Even before the icing there were hours of prep. Make a Victoria sponge, fill with butter icing, pour over vanilla syrup, cover it all in marzipan and cut into heart shapes. Then warm the fondant icing to just the right temperature, colour it  to just the right shade of pink, dip  the cakes in the gloopy, sticky icing without letting them fall into the icing as I did and filling the icing with cake crumbs. Somehow, I don’t think Peggy gets into this mess.

But having pressed them into foil cases and dipped them in edible glitter they did look pretty good.  Obviously not as good as Peggy’s in the book but good enough to win the prize of ‘Cake Most Like Its Baker.’ So, happy ending, but I won’t be making them again in a hurry.

If you want to learn how to make cakes like Peggy Porschen, she runs a three day wedding cake masterclass at the heart-stopping price of £975. They are fabulous cakes though. Check out her website www.peggyporschencom.

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