Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Prior Park Garden Centre: Secret Garden Cafe

We decided to make the most of the beautiful autumn weather  on Saturday and walk around part of the Bath Skyline Walk. Needing a bit of sustenance first, we headed to the Secret Garden Cafe at Prior Park Garden Centre for a bite of lunch.

We’ve been here several times before and have always enjoyed the food and cake. It’s just out of the city centre and has free parking outside (although this is very carefully monitored and they will fine you if you are found to have left your car here and gone off site). It is also one of my favourite places to buy Christmas decorations as they always have a lovely selection of really tasteful decorations – I’d definitely recommend a look. The gift shop also has some lovely bits and pieces and the farm shop has a fantastic selection of foods.

We arrived just after 14.00 and it was fairly quiet in the cafe, which was surprising as it has always been busy when we have visited before – although this has generally been in the week. It may well have been because we arrived just after lunch but before the afternoon tea crowds.The cafe itself is fairly simple, with metal table and chairs and a few comfy sofas. There's a nice little outside patio, fab on a warm, sunny day. The cafe provides a good selection of magazines and offers free wi-fi, making it a nice place to sit, drink tea, eat cake and chill.

The menu includes home-made soup (the day’s version was Roasted Vegetable – which sounded tempting); salads; jacket potatoes, wraps and toasties – with a range of fillings. There were 3 specials: a chilli, a burger and a delicious sounding tart – but I can’t now remember what it was! We weren’t incredibly hungry and I was going out for dinner that night, so I convinced the EHH to go halves with me on a brie and bacon toasty (£6.50), which came with a choice of fries or side salad. The toasty was delicious and the portion of fries was generous and lovely and crispy.

I had a pot of tea and EHH had a latte. The tea came in a little metal tea pot and did about 2.5 small cups of tea. EHH’s latte was in a medium-sized coffee cup (which I’m always disappointed to see – I strongly believe that lattes should always come in a glass!), which was, in EHH’s own words “Alright – not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst!”. Both drinks did, however, come with a delicious little amaretti biscuit – which reminded me how much I love these! Must make some soon!  

My half-portion of toasty and chips was plenty for me, but unsurprisingly, the EHH was still hungry and so decided to peruse the cake offerings. There was a choice of two large cakes – looked like carrot and lemon – which looked delicious with generous servings (I think these were about £2.60 a slice – which I think is very reasonable). There were also scones, muffins, doughnuts, and a number of traybakes, including a couple of different flapjacks, an almond slice, Millionaire’s shortbread and others, as well as a couple of gluten–free choices. EHH opted for an almond slice, which was a bit like a Bakewell slice, but without the raspberry/cherry layer. The pastry layer was a little thick on this and it was a little dry, but it was tasty overall – a little sweet for me – I felt it missed the jam layer!

Overall, a good lunch – service was friendly and efficient and the food was good. We’ll definitely visit again – fairly soon I imagine – so that I can buy the Christmas decorations that EHH dragged me away from this time! 

View of Bathampton from the Bath Skyline Walk
Views on the Bath Skyline Walk

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Halloween Red Velvet cupcakes

 9 Halloween Red Velvet cupcakes topped with ghosts, pumpkins and witches' hats

It was my turn to make cakes for the Friday meeting at work this week and, being so close to Halloween, I thought that they needed to be themed. I hadn’t made cupcakes for a while and so decided to make some Red Velvet cupcakes and also a Primrose Bakery Lemon Layer Cake.

Needing inspiration, I turned, as usual, to Flickr: a simple search for Halloween cakes brought up loads of ideas. Some of the cakes were extremely gory and although they were very clever, I just don’t fancy eating cakes with fake blood pouring out of them! I decided to go for something quite simple – grass-covered cupcakes with pumpkins, ghosts and witches’ hats!

The Red Velvet recipe came from a Sara Stanley cupcake course at the Bertinet Kitchen: we did 6 different flavours on the day – 3 of which I completely love – including this ultra-light and fluffy Red Velvet recipe. I’m not really a chocolate cake fan (secret, shameful fact – I’m actually not that fussed about chocolate at all), but these only have a tiny smidgeon of cocoa and they’re absolutely gorgeous! I add mashed up raspberries to the raspberry jam to liven it up a bit. I don’t use the food colouring as I don’t really see the need!

On this occasion, I topped the cupcakes with simple vanilla buttercream rather than a cream cheese frosting that normally tops them. The cream cheese frosting tastes fantastic and goes brilliantly with these cupcakes, but has to be eaten immediately, or be kept in the fridge, and the cakes go a little hard when kept in the fridge. A standard vanilla buttercream is also a lot easier to work with – which was necessary for piping the grass.

As a warning, this recipe rises a lot! It says that it makes 14 cupcakes (which is a bit annoying seeing as typically tins have 12 holes!) – I decided to just spread it over 12 and some of them overspilled by quite a bit!

Red Velvet cupcakes
(makes 14)
Red Velvet cupcake topped with buttercream grass and a fondant ghost


  1. 160g Castor sugar
  2. 110g soft margarine
  3. 1 egg
  4. 160g plain flour
  5. 10g cocoa
  6. ½ tsp salt
  7. ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. 120g buttermilk
  9. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1 tsp malt vinegar
  11. ½ whole bottle of red food colouring (optional)
  12. Approx 4 tblsp raspberry jam
  13. Approx 14 raspberries

Vanilla buttercream
  1. 110g butter at room temperature
  2. 60ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 500g icing sugar
  5. Food colouring as required


  1. Preheat oven to 165C.
  2. Beat sugar and marge until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add beaten egg gradually, mixing until smooth and light.
  4. Weigh the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.
  5. Sieve the dry ingredients into the beaten mixture, bit by bit, stirring gently between each addition.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients and mix gently to incorporate.    
  7. Put cupcake cases into bun tin and fill two-thirds of each case with cake mixture.
  8. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the cakes spring back when touched lightly.  
While the cakes are baking, make the buttercream:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again until smooth and creamy.
  3. If adding colour, add drop by drop until the desired colour is achieved.
Filling and decorating the cakes
  1. Mash the raspberries and mix with jam. Warm gently if needed
  2. Once cakes are cooked and cooled, use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  3. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  4. Fill the hole in each cake with the raspberry jam mix and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  5. Pipe buttercream on top of each cake. 
Red Velvet cupcake with buttercream grass and topped with a witch's hat

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Raspberry Bakewell Slice

Cake number 4 for EHH’s birthday. This is one of my favourite recipes, although a bit of a faff to make! It’s originally from GoodFood magazine a couple of years ago and I’ve made it several times. It can be eaten warm, with custard or cream, as a dessert, or it’s just as great cold – ideally with a cup of tea!

The original recipe suggested using Guernsey butter (which, as a Guernsey Girl, I’d highly recommend!) but I’ve not managed to find any available around here, so I use Kerrygold – an Irish butter, which is lovely and soft at room temperature.

The GF recipe suggests using defrosted frozen raspberries – I usually just use fresh. I also added in the step of glazing the pastry with egg/egg white and re-baking – something suggested by Mary Berry to ensure a lovely crispy pastry layer.

Not a very good picture as I finally finished cooking this one late at night and it was still cooling - so I couldn't take it out of the tin! EHH whipped it off to work early in the morning before I was up - so no chance to take a photo of what the slices look like! 

Raspberry Bakewell Slice

Image of raspberry bakewell slice in baking tin


  1. 375g pack sweet shortcrust pastry
  2. 1 egg / egg white
  3. 5 tbsp thick seedless raspberry jam
  4. 100g raspberries,
  5. 25g flaked almonds
  6. 4 tbsp apricot jam

For the sponge

  1. 200g butter, very soft, plus a little extra for the tin
  2. 200g golden caster sugar
  3. 100g ground almonds
  4. 100g self-raising flour
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. ½ tsp almond extract
  7. 4 eggs, beaten
  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Line the base and sides of a buttered traybake tin, about 18-20cm x 30cm, with baking parchment.
  3. Roll out the pastry to line. Lift into the tin and evenly press right into the corners. Prick with a fork and chill for 20 mins.
  4. Bake the pastry for 8-10 mins until it's cooked but not too coloured.
  5. Brush with the egg / egg white and bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Cool for a few mins and turn down the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  7. Spread the raspberry jam over the pastry and scatter over the raspberries.
  8. For the sponge, put all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until soft and very well mixed.
  9. Spoon this over the raspberry layer, then smooth evenly.
  10. Scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 mins (I find it takes much longer – usually about an hour) until golden and firm.
  11. Cool completely in the tin. Will freeze for up to 3 months - overwrap the tin with baking parchment and foil beforehand.

To serve, thaw for 4 hrs at room temperature, then reheat in a low oven. Melt the apricot jam with 1 tbsp water and brush over the top of the sponge just before serving.

Apple Amazing Cake

So next on the list for the baking marathon for EHH’s birthday was my Apple Amazing Cake. This is actually an Apple and Raisin Cake but has been re-named Apple Amazing Cake as lots of people have misheard and assumed that this was the name – it also tastes pretty amazing! It is a huge hunk of a cake and so serves lots of people! 

The recipe originally came from a colleague when I was temping many years ago – it’s actually a good thing to be typing it out as I was given it handwritten and it is now looking rather worse for wear, with many splatters and grease marks obscuring bits of the writing. Typing it out means that I’ll have a spare copy – I’d hate to lose this recipe!

The only problem with this recipe is that it does take forever to cook – and is a bit unpredictable in how long it will take! The recipe I was given says between 1.5 hours and 3 hours! You’re also not meant to open the oven too often to check otherwise it will sink!

The recipe is also in ounces rather than grams as this was how it was given to me!

Apple Amazing Cake

Image of huge Apple and Raisin cake
  1. 4 large cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
  2. 1-2 tblsp soft brown sugar
  3. 24oz plain flour
  4. 3 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  5. 12oz margarine
  6. 12oz castor sugar (I use golden)
  7. 1 tblsp cinnamon
  8. 12oz seedless raisins
  9. 4 large eggs (beaten)

  1. Grease and line a 9” (22.5cm) square baking tin with baking parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  3. Put chopped apples into a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar. 
  4. Cook over a low heat until soft and pureed (a few lumps left is fine), stirring regularly.
  5. Once pureed, remove from heat and taste – add extra soft brown sugar if needed, but be careful not to over-sweeten. Leave to cool.
  6. Put flour, bicarb and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and rub in margarine until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  7. Stir in sugar, raisins and eggs.
  8. Stir in apple puree and mix everything together well.
  9. Pour into the prepared baking tin and cook at 190C for 30 minutes.
  10. After 30 minutes of cooking turn the oven down to 140C and then cook for another 1 – 2.5 hours.
  11. Check occasionally to ensure the top isn’t too brown. Cover with tin foil if needed.
  12. To check if cooked, insert a clean knife. If it comes out clean, it is ready.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

GBBO Flapjacks

So, second bake of the Great Baking Weekend for EHH’s birthday. Decided to make these flapjacks as they’re quick and easy, and I could make them on the Saturday. The recipe is taken from the GBBO Showstopper Book, under “Ruby Jacks” – but without the ginger. I’ve done them with the ginger and they taste fab – but decided to leave them plain this time as EHH isn’t hugely keen on ginger (although I love it!).

These flapjacks are great – right level of sweetness, crunchy and yet chewy – fab!

I’ve topped some of them with the white chocolate, cranberry and sour cherry topping suggested by the GBBO book (adding also dried blueberries as I had them in the cupboard). The others I finished with a drizzle of lemon icing leftover from the Sticky Ginger Cake made earlier.



  1. 115g butter
  2. 70g light brown muscovado sugar
  3. 5 tblsp / 125g golden syrup
  4. 180g porridge oats

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Line a 20.5cm square tin with baking parchment
  3. Put the butter, golden syrup and sugar in a pan.
  4. Stir over a low heat until melted.
  5. Place oats in a large bowl and pour over syrup mixture, mixing thoroughly to combine.
  6. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly, pressing down with the back of a spoon to level the surface (it will be a fairly thin layer).  
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Set the tin on a wire rack.
  9. Carefully score the mixture into 16 squares, using an oiled knife, then leave until cool.

White chocolate topping:

Image of flaphack covered in white chocolate with dried blueberries, cranberries and sour cherries


  1. 100g good quality white chocolate
  2. 150g mix of dried cranberries, sour cherries and blueberries


  1. Chop white chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl.
  2. Simmer a small amount of water gently in a saucepan and place the glass bowl over this (ensuring it does not touch the boiling water).
  3. Stir the chocolate gently until melted.
  4. Spread the chocolate on top of the cooled flapjack squares.
  5. Decorate with the dried fruit and allow to set.

Lemon drizzle icing
Flapjack with lemon drizzle icing squiggles


  1. 100g icing sugar, sifted
  2. Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  3. Lemon juice


  1. Mix together icing sugar and lemon zest, then gradually add lemon juice until you have a smooth, slightly runny icing, adding more juice, if needed.
  2. Spoon into a disposable piping bag and drizzle in zig-zags across the cooled flapjacks.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sticky Ginger Cake with lemon drizzle icing

It’s been a busy baking weekend! It was the Ever Hungry Husband’s (EHH) birthday last week while we were on holiday, and so, as tradition goes, he has to take cakes into work. The trouble is, there are over 60 people to feed at his work! The easy (and cheaper) thing to do would have been to get him to buy 6 bags of 10 doughnuts from the supermarket. But I like a challenge!

So, after a lot of deliberation and searching of the recipe books and files, we decided on Sticky Ginger Cake, flapjacks, Apple Amazing Cake, Raspberry Bakewell Slices and a Caramel Layer Cake.

The great thing about my Sticky Ginger Cake recipe is that it keeps for up to 2 weeks – the flavour keeps developing and it keeps beautifully moist and sticky. I’ve had the recipe for ages – no idea where it came from originally! However, if you follow the instructions carefully, it comes out beautifully every time and tastes fantastic!

Sticky Ginger Cake with lemon drizzle icing

Sticky ginger cake with lemon drizzle icing
1.    225g self-raising flour
2.    1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
3.    2 tbsp ground ginger
4.    2 tsp ground cinnamon
5.    2 tsp ground mixed spice
6.    115g butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
7.    115g dark muscovado sugar
8.    115g black treacle
9.    115g golden syrup
10. 250ml whole milk
11. 85g drained stem ginger, finely chopped
12. 1 egg 

For the icing
1.    100g icing sugar, sifted
2.    Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3.    Lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4. Butter and line an 18cm round, 7cm deep cake tin with parchment paper.
  2. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all the spices into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Put the sugar, treacle, syrup and milk in a medium saucepan and heat, gently stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to just below boiling point. (It will split and go lumpy at this point – don’t panic! This is normal!)
  6. Add the stem ginger to the flour mixture, then pour in the treacle mixture, stirring as you go with a wooden spoon.
  7. Break in the egg and beat until all the mixture is combined and it resembles a thick pancake batter.
  8. Pour this into prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour, until the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Leave to cool completely in tin before turning cake out. (To freeze: wrap in greaseproof paper, then in cling film. Freeze for up to 1 month.)
  10. To make the icing, mix together icing sugar and lemon zest, then gradually add lemon juice until you have a smooth, slightly runny icing, adding more juice, if needed.
  11. Put icing into a disposable piping bag and drizzle icing in a zig-zag pattern over surface of cake, turn cake around and drizzle again to create the cross-hatched finish.
  12. Cake keeps for up to 2 weeks stored in an airtight container. 

Close up of sticky ginger cake with lemon drizzle icing