The Great British Bake Along – Week 4 and 5

Apologies for the radio silence, rest assured I have been baking along as usual but a poorly toddler has taken up my available writing time. To make up for it, here’s a BOGOF post to get me back on track and ready for whatever pastry week has in store for me.

Week 4 – Stroopwafels

Prudence Margaret Leith, I have a bone to pick with you. Are you and Hollywood determined to BURN MY FINGERS OFF this year?? I can think of no reasonable explanation as to why you would once again have me make something that has to be shaped whilst hotter than the surface of the sun.

So, stroopwafels it is. I protest too much, because actually I thought this recipe had potential. First of all, it contains caramel, so I’m immediately interested and also calls for a waffle cone maker, which of course I didn’t already own – I get to eat caramel AND buy a near-pointless kitchen gadget (sorry, Kris), so win-win.

The dough for the waffles was pretty straightforward, I rubbed in the butter and then chucked everything in the KitchenAid, slowly adding the water until it started to come together. I added the egg and kneaded the dough with the dough hook for a minute or two – really not long at all. The dough came together quite easily into a soft ball, which I set aside to rest whilst attempting to make the caramel.

In the caramel episode, everyone seemed to be having issues with the caramel going grainy so I attempted to avoid that by scrutinising the recipe and following it to the exact letter. This was a challenge for me, because I really like tweaking recipes to my own taste. The sugar took a long time to dissolve completely, and I was surprised to see that the recipe called for constant, slow stirring. I always thought that stirring caramel was the thing that made it go grainy, but I trusted Queen P and did as I was told. The caramel did eventually come together and was creamy, as the recipe suggested. I then had to keep it warm whilst shaping the dough.

Whilst heating up my new gadget ready for the inaugural stroopwafel, I weighed and rolled the dough into 40g balls which I kept under a damp tea towel to stop them drying out. Like the pointless fortune cookies, this is a recipe where you can only make one at a time and you have to do it whilst the buggers are still hot. All this whilst trying to keep the caramel at the exact warmth to stop it going grainy. I placed one dough ball on the iron at a time and pressed the lid down for 1.5 – 2mins, until they were golden brown and a little puffed up. While the waffle is hot, remove to a cutting board and use a metal cutter (my plastic one melted) to make it into a perfect circle, split into two layers, put a big blob of caramel in the middle and sandwich the two halves back together, making sure the caramel covers all the way to the edge. I like to do this whilst singing ‘Stroop’ to the tune of ‘Shoop’ by Salt-N-Pepa.

This was all pretty straightforward, if lengthy and hot. Toward the end, I got a bit distracted and my caramel started to turn a little grainy. This was easily fixed with a small splash of boiling water, thankfully.

Unlike the fortune cookies which I doubt I will ever make again, these were TOTALLY WORTH the effort. I definitely did not eat 4 in one day, honest. Serve them with coffee if you can wait for the kettle to boil before you stuff them into your face like the Cookie Monster. I now have a waffle iron so basically everyone is getting stroopwafels for Christmas this year whether they like it or not.

You can (and should) find the official recipe here: Prue’s Stroopwafels

Week 5 – Molten Chocolate Peanut Butter Puddings

HELL YES, DESSERT WEEK! Now, THAT is more like it – a filthy pudding full of peanut butter. Before I’d even watched the episode I had multiple offers to come and be a taste tester for this one. Shocker.

As you will have seen from the episode, these babies come together pretty fast and need to be eaten right away (what a shame). I prepped all the ingredients whilst dinner was in the oven, ready to bring everything together and pop them in the oven right after.

The recipe calls for the chocolate and butter to be melted together and cooled, which allowed me enough time to melt everything before dinner and for it to be cool enough to use when we’d finished. I whipped the sugar, eggs and egg yolks together in the KitchenAid until it looked like mousse – this took a surprisingly long time, as I like to beat eggs on the lowest setting, to keep the air bubbles small. I find that the smaller bubbles give the eggs a stronger structure which means that you are less likely to lose too much air when you fold in the remaining ingredients.

Once the chocolate/butter is cool, fold into the mousse, then sift and fold in the flour. Fill your pudding mounds about halfway with mixture, then stick a big blob of peanut butter in the middle of each one and cover with the remaining mixture.

Paul’s recipe calls for the puddings to be baked for 8-12 minutes. I plumped for 10, texted my taste tester with a 10 minute warning and sat in front of the oven watching them nervously. After 10mins, one started to look like it might be on the verge of cracking, which the recipe said it should not do. I took them out and made Kris turn them out, while I danced about nervously behind him.

There was no need for nerves, they were spot on. Lovely cakey texture with a filthy, molten peanut butter centre.

These were simple to make, and now I know they take exactly 10mins in my oven I would absolutely try them again. Yum!

Find the official recipe here: Paul’s Molten Puddings

See you next week for tarts!

The Great British Bake Along – Week Three

Welcome to Bread Week! Now we are getting into the serious stuff. I have to admit that bread baking is something I don’t have a great deal of experience in. I have been to a fabulous bread making course at The Thoughtful Bread Company in Bath, which I can totally recommend. Other than that fantastic weekend of baking, I have made about 3 loaves of bread in my entire life. One I blogged about after I went to Winchester City Mill a few months ago, one was an unmitigated disaster / experiment that turned out like a breeze block and the other was soda bread, which doesn’t really count.

Needless to say, I entered this week with some trepidation. I was secretly hoping that the technical challenge would be crumpets because if there is an upper limit to crumpet consumption, I am yet to reach it. Alas, it was not to be as Mr Hollywood has decreed that this week I must make a cottage loaf.

I remember my Mum buying cottage loaves when I was a kid, so at least I had an idea what they are supposed to look like. At first read, the recipe looked pretty straightforward, requiring no special equipment – bonus! I started by weighing out the dry ingredients, remembering to keep the salt and yeast separate as I understand that salt can stop the yeast from working. At this point, the recipe asks for softened lard to be added to the dry ingredients, which is not something I have ever come across in bread making before, but who am I to question Lord Hollywood and his infinite wisdom?

On the show last week, I noticed that the contestants mentioned that this is a traditional recipe and therefore the expectation from the judges would be that the dough should be brought together and kneaded by hand. I added the water to the dry ingredients gradually, until all the flour had been incorporated. 

The recipe demands that the dough be “soft but not soggy” at this stage. Mine was soft but admittedly a little sticky. I decided to counteract this by using a little more flour when kneading, which worked a treat. Mr H’s recipe told me to knead for 5-10mins. This is nothing but a bare-faced lie, Paul Hollywood. I had Netflix on whilst I was kneading and got through almost an entire episode of Easy before the dough started to change. BUT – it did change, and I could even tell when it had. The dough went lovely and silky, and was much stretchier than before. I set it aside to prove until it had doubled in size, which was about 1.5hrs.

After the dough had risen, I knocked all the air out of in and shaped it into that two-thirds / one-third Victorian lady hairdo shape. I then gave it the (now infamous) “two-finger treatment” that is apparently how Paul does it… You would not believe the amount of times I have been asked about the two-fingers this week. Filth. I slashed the assembled loaf and allowed to rise for another hour. Once risen, the loaf went into the oven.

About two minutes later, the top of the loaf started to erupt up and over. I thought the finger thing was supposed to stop this from happening!? It ended up looking like this.

But inside it was light, soft and the crust was lovely and crispy. 

It was undoubtedly a lovely loaf, but I was not happy with the wonky top, so I had another go. I made the top ball slightly smaller and made the two-finger hole quite a bit bigger. This helped a little with the appearance but was still wonky. I decided to be ok with the comical shape because I don’t think it’s worth amending the recipe just in case it impairs the final loaf, which is basically made of heaven and clouds.

If you think you can’t make bread, have a go at this one. It’s fab! Official recipe here: Paul’s Classic Cottage Loaf

See you next week!

The Great British Bake Along – Week Two

Welcome to biscuit week! When Paul Hollywood uttered the immortal words ‘Fortune Cookies’ last week, my heart sank. Here I was, hoping for a delicious morsel to have with a cup of coffee and he gives me bloody fortune cookies to make. Do they even really count as a biscuit? Do people actually eat them or are they just a vehicle for the bizarre pearls of wisdom(?) within.

Having watched last week’s episode, I was quite daunted by the task ahead of me. The bakers all seemed to have some kind of issue with the assembly of the cookies, or with the baking time – I can see why Paul set this as a technical challenge.

When I read the recipe, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I already had most of the ingredients and equipment needed. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, so I’ve got no “wrong size pan” excuse this week…

The first stage of the recipe called for egg whites to be beaten with oil until “frothy but not aerated”, which is not an instruction I have ever come across before. I erred on the side of caution, using a little guess work and having read ahead (something I sometimes forget to do) noticed that the recipe is adamant that there be no air bubbles in the final mix so only mixed until the eggs were just frothy throughout.

Once mixed, I added to the dry ingredients and split the mixture between two bowls and a piping bag (which I almost forgot to do entirely, don’t tell PH) to add the different flavours. On the show, the orange cookies came out quite pale so I went for it with the orange colouring.

I decided to tackle the almond cookies first. The recipe calls for the cookies to be baked two at a time, which is lengthy and a faff but once the first batch came out of the oven it became obvious why. The cookies need to be shaped immediately, which involved me very carefully peeling the cookies off the silicon baking sheet with a palette knife and then forming into a pasty shape around the fortune, bending them over the rim of a glass and placing them in a muffin tin to set (breaaaaathe). It was at this point that I realised I would be doing a lot of swearing because my fingertips now resembled Will Smith’s after he touches the silver orb in Men in Black. I could now fight the worst scum of the universe, should the urge take me.

The cookies are really thin and cool quickly, which is great for the pain factor but awful for the shaping. They will solidify and crack if you don’t get them into the right shape quickly enough.

The orange cookies were slightly different to arrange on the baking sheet. I spread the circles of batter out, as before and added six dots to each using the reserved batter in the piping bag. I then turned the dots into little hearts using a cocktail stick – these turned out to be easier to create than I anticipated. Despite being a bit gung-ho with the orange colouring, once baked they also turned out a little pale. I still think they look quite pretty though. I dipped the almond cookies in white chocolate and hazelnuts to decorate.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out, but wouldn’t make them again (sorry, PH) simply because I think they are a bit nothingy. If I’m going to spend a few hours in front of an oven, I want something truly delicious at the end of it. To that end, I felt guilty about sending such a non-snack to K’s office that I made them a filthy millionaire’s shortbread to make up for it!

If you feel the desire to melt your fingerprints off for the sake of some sugar cookies, you can find the official recipe here: Paul’s Fortune Cookies

I’m off to watch GBBO now to find out what I’ll be baking this week.

See you next week!

The Great British Bake Along – Week 1

As you may already know, I am a huge Great British Bake Off fan. This year, I have (foolishly?) decided to push myself out of my baking comfort zone and bake along with the contestants. Every week I will be watching the show and afterwards will be trying to bake the technical challenge from that week, whatever it may be. Heaven help us all…

Last week, the technical challenge was to bake 12 of Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls. I have to admit that I was quite looking forward to baking these, I love a mini roll and I thought that having previously made a Yule Log that I would have no problem making something similar. Ok, you can stop laughing now.

It turned out that I don’t have two identically sized baking trays of the correct dimensions, so I made do with two slightly smaller, fatter trays. I didn’t anticipate how crucial this decision would be until I came to assemble the rolls.

Whilst labour and washing-up intensive, the recipe is pretty straight forward and produced a lovely moist chocolate cake that was flexible enough to roll without splitting. The problem with having used the wrong size trays is that my cake was too thick and not long enough to produce “the peeerfect swiiiiirl”, an expression I can now only hear in Paul Hollywood’s dulcet tones. Despite much faffing and swearing, I managed to get the rolls into a kind-of C shape, which several of the GBBO contestants managed too, so I’m in good company. Plus, who doesn’t love a massive collection of buttercream in the middle? Wrong people, that’s who (Paul Hollywood).

Now, I’ve watched enough cake decorating YouTube clips to make me think that coating the whole lot in chocolate was going to be fun. It was not. It was actually quite stressful, which is not something I have ever said about 500g of melted chocolate before. The challenge here was managing to coat everything on all sides before the chocolate started to set and get messy. I thought I would have enough to simply pour over the rolls, but it was quite tight and I ended up having to scoop up the overspill and use it to cover the ends of the rolls with a palette knife.

I am making this sound like a nightmare, but actually it was only the assembly that was hard. The cake recipe was pretty foolproof and I definitely think I’d make them again, using the correct sized trays. I had some very kind feedback from my taste-testers / willing victims, my favourite being “oh good God, they are AMAZING!!!”. Take that, Paul & Prue!

If you fancy melting an absolute ton of chocolate, you can find the official GBBO recipe here: Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls

Birthday Kransekage

First of all, apologies for the radio silence. We are in the process of having our kitchen redone which has made baking a bit of an issue! Just the floor to go now…

As you might already know, my husband Kris is half Danish and we had a traditional Danish kransekage wedding cake when we got married in 2013. 

Since then, I’ve managed to get half of my family and quite a few friends addicted to the stuff, which is how I ended up baking a Danish cake for my English Aunt’s birthday.
Kransekage is a baked almond confection, soft and chewy on the inside and firm to the touch on the outside. If you like marzipan, this is the cake for you! They made a version of it on Great British Bakeoff a few years ago, which had me and Kris yelling at the TV in horror at more than just the pronunciation.

There’s a bit of a knack to kransekage, which has taken me a few attempts / years to get right. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. It’s essential to chill the dough before shaping for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. This makes it much easier to handle and shape.

2. To get the icing the right consistency you need to beat the living hell out of it for at least 5-10mins, otherwise you’ll be adding more and more icing sugar and getting nowhere fast!
3. Take it out of the oven when it’s just golden and semi firm. The outside will still have some ‘give’ to it, but once they are cooled, they will have a lovely soft centre and a nice crumbly crust, without being too chewy.

4. The best results I’ve had have been using Odense baking almond paste, which I’ve only managed to find either in Denmark, at the annual Danish Christmas bazaar in London or annually on Danish Food Direct. At all other non-Christmas times, I make my own marzipan (recipe follows). Don’t be tempted to use UK marzipan in a pinch, I attempted this a couple of times and whilst the dough shapes as expected, once you put it in the oven it kind of splurges all over the place in some kind of giant pancakey mess.

5. Use two baking sheets for insulation, or the bottom browns too quickly. I like a regular baking sheet with a silicon baking mat on top.

6. They are insanely good with coffee or a glass of bubbly. Enjoy!

The recipe I use is below, it’s my own variation on the one from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann.

Here’s my glamorous assistant!


For the cakes:

100g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
2 egg whites
500g marzipan (recipe below)
Icing sugar for dusting

For the marzipan:
500g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
75ml – 100ml water

For the icing:

75g icing sugar
30g egg whites (I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites)


To make the marzipan, I put the sugar and almonds into a stand mixer and gradually add the water until it comes together into a dough. Once the dough has come together, remove it from the mixer and briefly knead it on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar.

To make the cakes, put the sugar and almonds into a mixer or food processor with the egg whites. Beat well until pale.

Chop up 500g of the marzipan and gradually add to the almond mix. This will make a fairly sticky dough. Remove the dough on to the surface dusted with sugar and form into a fat sausage, using as much dusting sugar as you need so that it doesn’t stick to your hands or the surface. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for a few hours / overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Dust the dough and surface with icing sugar and roll into two long sausages, about 2cm wide. Chop the sausage into equal lengths, approx 6cm each (this should make about 24). Squash the top of the sausages into triangle points and place on the double baking sheets.

Bake for 15-20mins. Once golden, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, I blitz the icing sugar and egg whites in the stand mixer on med-high for about 10mins until it’s thick and bright white. Pop the icing into a piping bag and zig-zag across the top of the cakes, once they are completely cool.

Winchester City Mill Wholemeal Bread

A few weeks ago we went on holiday to the New Forest and made it our business to get some serious action from our National Trust membership (excuse to eat cake on a daily basis).

Having sampled the coffee and walnut cake at several local stately homes, we decided to try something a little different and made a trip to Winchester City Mill.

Winchester City Mill is a working water mill, located in the city centre and there has been a mill on the site since Saxon times. The National Trust took over the mill and restored the machinery to full working order back in 2004. As the mill is fully functional, their volunteers use it to mill flour regularly, producing a traditional strong wholemeal flour, which they advise is ideal for bread making. 

How could I resist picking up some flour and having a go?

Having not made wholemeal bread before, I wasn’t sure what to expect but figured that recently kneading 77 bagels would have given me some decent practice / muscles to make it work.

I used the following recipe that I picked up on a card at the mill and cost me a small donation toward the Save Winchester City Mill fund.

Wholemeal Bread (c70%)

500g WCM Wholemeal Flour

250g Strong White Flour

450ml Tepid water

13g Fresh yeast / 1 x 7g pkt dried yeast

25g Butter, unsalted

2tsp Salt

1tsp Caster Sugar

  1. Cream the fresh yeast with a little water to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remainder of water.
  2. Put the flour, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter. (If using dried yeast, shake on to the flour mixture at this point and stir in)
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the liquid. Mix together to form a soft dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10mins until dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. (To get anywhere near this description, I ended up kneading for about half an hour, just in case you are baking this and wondering why it is still a sticky lump!)
  4. Put the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a clean cloth (I always use cling film, sorry!) and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (approx 1hr). 
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn out on to a floured surface and knock back (re-knead) for 2-3 minutes. Shape dough and place in a large loaf tin. Cover again and set aside until the dough has risen to the top of the tin (about 20min).
  6. Place the tin on a baking sheet in a moderately hot oven (220c / Fan 210c / Gas 7) and bake for 30-40mins or until the loaf is golden. To check the loaf is baked through, turn out of the tin and tap the base with your knuckle. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.
  7. Turn out on to a cooling rack and leave until cold. (Or… if you’re me, panic that it’s not done, enlist opinion of husband, decide to put back in the oven for a bit. Remove in another 10mins, ignore cooling instruction and eat with lots of butter whilst still warm.)

I am pretty pleased with how it turned out in the end. It was very tasty, if a little too dense. I think this was my fault for mucking around with the loaf at the end of the bake. I also think it could benefit from perhaps a bit more yeast, or maybe activating the yeast with warm water and sugar before adding to the rest of the dough. None of this stopped me from slathering it in butter and feasting, however!

If you fancy giving this recipe a go, please visit and make a small donation to the Save Winchester City Mill fund. The National Trust need to raise £125,000 to carry out essential repair works to the mill following significant flood damage from the heavy floods over winter 2013-14. For more information on how the National Trust are working to save the oldest working water mill in Britain, please visit

So, I made 77 bagels in one week…

I am currently doing Slimming World. Officially, to try and lose some baby weight but also the additional 7lbs that I gained during Bagelgate in February. Damn you, beautiful carbs.

Recently, I decided that it would be a really great idea to make pretzels. I think I was having some kind of honeymoon (we went to NYC) flashback, which meant that I desperately wanted a soft pretzel. I made one batch from this Paul Hollywood recipe and it became pretty clear that I no longer have any idea what pretzels are supposed to taste like. I could only remember the kosher salt on the top, which made it impossible to tell whether they were any good. Also, no-one seemed to like them!


So, what New York treat could I make instead? Bagels! 

The process and ingredients were pretty similar to the pretzels, which made it all the more tempting to give it a go. On top of which, I can actually remember what bagels taste like, which is a start.
The first batch I tried were from this recipe and were encouragingly straightforward to make.

I tasted these when they were still warm and they were really tasty, but pretty chewy. I set about Googling fixes for that, which the general consensus seemed to advise was due to me boiling them too long before they were baked. Simple fix, excellent.

The next batch turned out like this:

To this day, I have literally no clue how they ended up like that. They were really good! I ended up proving them for an undisclosed period of time – however long it took to clean the kitchen. Then, due to baby duties kicking in part way through me shaping them, they ended up with a second prove which is what I think helped them hold their shape better. The problem began when I attempted to replicate the process for another batch.

I ended up baking another three batches that had various problems with proving, density and chewiness. I made notes on each batch and tweaked the recipe but I could not get them to work like that again.


In a last-ditch attempt (for my own sanity more than a desire for further bagels) and after another furious problem-solving Google marathon, I came across this great piece on The Guardian website. They cover a lot of the issues I was having in this article and the reasons behind them.

 I have now made this recipe three times and the bagels are always perfect; lovely bubbly texture with a great chewy crunch on the outside. The long, slow overnight prove gives them a really great flavour, deeper and richer than their quicker counterparts. 

I would definitely recommend going all out and giving them the full prove – delicious. Unless of course you are trying to lose baby weight, as these are ADDICTIVE. 

You have been warned!

Drip, drip, drip

A few weeks ago I wrote about my adventures in layered sponge. When I made the Crunchie cake, I was determined to learn how to do two things;

1. Ice the whole bad-boy in smooth buttercream

2. Learn how to do the drippy icing down the sides

Easy, right?

Haha, no. First of all, I had watched this Cupcake Jemma video about 20 times, so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into (!) and bought myself a cake decorating turntable and an angled palette knife. I cannot stress enough that the turntable was a game changer, but I definitely struggled with the palette knife – more on that later.

Using this honey buttercream recipe (including the quantity here – I know what you are thinking…) I started putting the cake together.

I levelled the layers and successfully filled the cake. Of course, I massively misjudged the amount of buttercream needed to cover the cake, which became blindingly obvious when I started the crumb coat and got caught short with about a third of the cake completely naked.

I made a further batch of frosting and managed to finish the crumb coat, as below.

I chilled the cake until the layers had set. It was at this point that I realised that I should not have chilled the rest of the buttercream… 

After a blast in the KitchenAid and a few drops of milk, it was once again loose enough to coat the cake. I plopped the icing on top of the cake and pushed it down over the sides with a flat palette knife, roughly covering the majority of the surface. I had one of those plastic cake scrapers, which I used to scrape the top layer off whilst rotating the turntable. This being the first time I had done it, I was pretty slow and kept uncovering bits of the cake or finding patchy bits.  The cake was chilled and the cold buttercream was re-setting which made it difficult to get a flat surface, so after a few attempts and a lot of muttered swear words, I caved and made the surface textured.

I do still quite like how it looked, but it’s not what I was aiming for. Lessons learnt.

After another spell in the fridge, I made a batch of dark chocolate ganache from this recipe, which I also used as a visual guide for the decoration on top.

The ganache was easy to work with, but a bit lumpier looking than I’d have liked.

I like the look of the finished cake, but really wanted to finesse the buttercream and ganache. 

Thankfully, when I tasted this cake, I realised that the dark chocolate ganache didn’t actually go that well with the honey buttercream, so I had another go at it!


This time I didn’t chill the buttercream while the crumb coat was setting, which gave me additional time to work with the scraper, smoothing the sides. Now that I had decent sides, I attempted to use the cranked palette knife to smooth the top… Thank goodness it was getting covered with ganache as I could not get it smooth for love nor money. Sigh.

The second ganache I made was half milk and half dark chocolate. I also saved some cream to adjust the thickness. I made it quite runny and then allowed it to thicken slightly. I tested it on the outside of a chilled bowl until it was smooth and just runny enough. It tasted much more Crunchie-like, so I covered some of the honeycomb pieces in the remaining melted chocolate. Some of these definitely didn’t make it on to the actual cake. Sorry.

Not perfect (that scrape at the bottom – argh!) but so much better.


I’m Claire, an amateur baker and cake enthusiast from Bristol. You can find a bit of an introduction to me on my About page!

I was inspired to start this page after several requests for recipes of things I’ve baked and posted on my Instagram page. This is where you will be able to find any recipes I have used, plus the tweaks I have made to them and hints to make them work for me. I hope this is helpful!

My personal mission at the moment is to improve my pastry and bread skills as well as exploring the more artistic side of cake decorating – I’ve just got into icing and buttercream in a big way and will be writing about my adventures here.

Welcome and happy baking!