Saturday, 23 February 2013

Guernsey Gache Melee

So, what on earth is Gache Melee, I can imagine you saying! Pronounced "Gosh mellar", it is a traditional Guernsey apple cake. As is the way with these old family recipes, there seems to be an abundance of different recipes for this cake. Some are very cakey, some more sticky and gooey. The only thing that seems to be the same is that they all contain cooking apples, originate in Guernsey and are very dense.
I’ve no idea where the recipe I used on this occasion came from originally – as with the Crispy Pineapple Bakes, I copied this recipe out of my Nan’s recipe book, which is an amalgam of recipes copied from magazines, handed down through the family, passed on by friends …

I called my mum to ask advice before making this recipe – but she wasn’t a great deal of help! Her advice was that she “just knew when it was right!” Hmm, thanks Mum! So pretty much, this was a case of experiment and see how it turned out! She did, however, warn me that you always had to bake it for much longer than the recipe said – she wasn’t wrong there! The recipe said 30-45 minutes, I baked it for about 2 hours! Although this was possibly slightly long as the edges had begun to go beyond “caramelised”!

The end product was chewy, gooey and caramelly. Tasty, but not quite right in my mind – the edges were overcooked and the middle not quite cooked. Having posted on Facebook about this, I’ve got a couple of different recipes to try – so may give those a go and see if they are more successful.

Gache Melee


  1. 2 medium-large cooking apples (peeled, cored and cubed)
  2. 120g plain flour
  3. 100g butter (at room temperature)
  4. 100g soft brown sugar
  5. Enough milk to make a firm paste


  1. Preheat the oven to 150C and line a brownie tin with baking parchment.
  2. Place the cubed apple into a bowl and sprinkle over the flour. Use a knife to stir the flour with the apples.
  3. Cut the butter into the bowl so that the butter is evenly distributed amongst the flour and apple.
  4. Mix again with the knife, chopping everything together until the butter and apple are well integrated into the flour.
  5. Add the brown sugar and stir everything together with a wooden spoon.
  6. Mix in enough milk to make everything stick together without becoming runny.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin and place in oven.
  8. Bake (for approx. 1 hour 30 minutes) until golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and leave to cool in tin.
  10. Once cool, remove from tin and cut into squares.

Nan’s Crispy Pineapple Bakes

Crispy Pineapple Bakes cooling on a wire rack

It was my birthday on Friday and so last weekend I decided to have a bit of a bakeathon in preparation.  Throughout the week, I had planned to meet up with some friends and so I decided to bake one of my old reliables – Sticky Ginger Cake with lemon drizzle icing. I just love this cake – it is easy and fairly quick to make (although takes an hour to bake), tastes amazing and lasts brilliantly – so great for making in advance.

Having made the Sticky Ginger Cake, I felt like experimenting with something new – so had a search through my recipe file and found two recipes that I had copied out of my Nan’s handwritten recipe book, but hadn’t yet made: Crispy Pineapple Bakes and Gache Melee. I decided to give both a go – and pop them in the oven at the same time. I’ll tell you more about Gache Melee in my next post.

I don’t remember ever having had Nan’s Crispy Pineapple bakes but they sounded delicious – pineapple cake topped with syrupy cornflakes! They were fairly simple to make – except you need to allow a bit of time as you have to boil up the pineapple mixture and then leave it to cool for 30 minutes. The tricky bit is trying to tell when the cake is actually cooked. The recipe I was using said bake for 40 minutes – I think I ended up baking for about an hour and a half. However, having just had a check, I’ve realised that the recipe said (in typical handwritten recipe style) “Gas Mark 5?” – I took a guess and thought that this would be about 165C – having looked it up, it should be 190C – which will explain why it took so long to cook!  It is difficult to tell when it is baked as the cornflakes on the top prevent you from being able to get at the top of the cake to give it a test. I used the skewer test and in the end, it finally came out clean.

This cake is a squidgy, dense cake (well it was when I made it) – and that works brilliantly with the crispy cornflakes on top. The pineapple flavour comes through beautifully. These cakes are definitely best eaten fresh. If they are left, the cornflakes will go soft and the contrast in textures is lost.

I’ve converted the imperial measures to metric – so hope they work out ok. I’m definitely going to have another go at these – EHH really enjoyed them and I’d like to really get them right!

Crispy Pineapple Bakes


  1. Large tin of crushed pineapple (432g)
  2. 60g butter
  3. 120g caster sugar (preferably golden)
  4. ½ tsp mixed spice
  5. 150g self-raising flour
  6. 1 large egg (beaten)


  1. 30g butter
  2. 1 tblsp golden syrup
  3. 60g cornflakes


  1. Place the crushed pineapple and juice, butter, sugar and mixed spice into a medium saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring the whole time.
  2. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 190C and line a brownie tin with baking parchment.
  5. Add the flour and the egg to the cooled pineapple mixture and beat until smooth.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  7. Melt the butter and golden syrup and bring to the boil (easiest to do this in a bowl in the microwave).
  8. Remove from heat and stir in the cornflakes.
  9. Sprinkle the coated cornflakes over the cake mix.
  10. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until firm.
  11. Remove from oven and  leave to cool in tin.
  12. Remove from tin and cut into squares.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Baby Shower Cupcakes

12 pastel Baby Shower cupcakes

As mentioned in my previous post on Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes, I’d been asked by a colleague to make 12 cupcakes for her daughter-in-law’s baby shower.  A quick consultation with my colleague confirmed that the baby’s gender wasn’t yet known, so the cakes needed to be gender-neutral, and the theming of the baby shower was fairly bright pastels.  I spent lots of time on Flickr doing searches for baby cupcakes, christening cupcakes, baby shower cakes, etc, created a Flickr gallery of my favourites and then, after lots of inspiration, sketched out a design for the 12 cupcakes.  

First, I made the lemon cupcakes – using my usual recipe. Except, annoyingly, I forgot to fill them with curd! I was so worried about getting the decoration right that I completely forgot the filling stage and by the time I remembered, it was too late! Never mind – I’m sure they’ll taste ok anyway. 

Having had a practise at making chocolate cupcakes last week, it was finally time to make them. After deliberating, I decided to just make plain chocolate rather than chocolate and cherry. My preference would be the chocolate and cherry, however, I was asked for chocolate and decided to stick with that. Batch One was a disaster! Why do things always go wrong when you are baking for something special?! Everything went fine until I was measuring out the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Having done all the measuring and mixed it all together, I realised that I had grabbed my half tablespoon measuring spoon instead of my teaspoon measuring spoon.  Stupidly, I decided to carry on anyway – deciding it wouldn’t make too much difference! Big mistake! Don’t know what I was thinking – the raising agent put into a mixture is vital and too much results in the cakes rising spectacularly and then sinking once taken out of the oven. And this is exactly what happened! 

So, Batch One will be heading to EHH’s work – edible but definitely not pretty! On to Batch Two. Careful measuring out this time, with the correct spoon! The recipe says that it makes 14 but I made 16 and they still ended up spilling out of their cases slightly – so be careful how much mixture goes into each case – don’t fill much beyond half-full.  Batch Two didn’t work out quite as well as last’s week’s and sunk slightly again – not sure why – could be that doing all milk rather than a mix of milk and cherry brandy made the difference, or it could be that I didn’t quite combine the egg white with the rest of the mixture enough. I’m not sure.  I managed to find 6 respectable looking ones – which was all that I needed for the order – so that was ok.

Decorating the cakes:

Tin of fondant cutters 

I bought this little set of cutters online earlier this week and it has been invaluable for decorating these cakes. I have rather a huge collection of fondant cutters but I think that this set of basic shapes could be the most useful! 

I started by colouring the icing. I mixed some plain white ready-to-roll icing with small amounts of red, blue, yellow and green Renshaw icing to create some pretty bright pastel colours. (I’m not at all keen on the taste of the Renshaw icing but it is the most commonly available icing – apparently because it is the best for modelling – and it comes in a wide variety of colours.) You could just add food colouring but I find that starting with a ready coloured icing is much less messy.

To create buttons:

Roll out coloured icing to approx. 5mm thick. Use a round cutter to cut out small circles. Use a round flat item (I used the top of a plunger cutter) to push down into the circles – so creating the rim of the button. Use a skewer to create four small holes in the centre of the button.

To create the patchwork effect cupcakes:

 Roll out some white icing to form a rectangle about A5 size, approx. 2 mm thick. Roll out small amounts of each colour of icing to approximately 2 mm thick. Use a square cutter to cut out squares of each colour. Use a clean paintbrush to lightly brush over the white icing with a small amount of water. Stick the squares of coloured icing onto the white icing in a random pattern – so that they are all touching and no white can be seen (you may also want to add in some squares of white icing). 

4 Patchwork Baby Shower cupcakesOnce the white icing has been covered, use a rolling pin to lightly and gently roll the icing again. Use a round cookie cutter (I used one with a diameter of 7.5cm) to stamp out circles. Use a suitable tool to create a stitching effect along the seams (I used the comb end of a scallop and comb tool, but you can also get a quilting tool)

Place a large round piping tip into a piping bag and fill the bag with buttercream. Pipe onto the cupcake to create a neatly domed mound. Gently lift a patchwork circle onto the cake. Top with a icing flower and button.

To create the button cupcakes:

4 pastel button baby shower cupcakesRoll out some coloured icing to approximately 3 mm thick. Place over an embossing mat (I used one from this set) and roll over again with a rolling pin. Gently remove from the embossing plate and use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles of embossed icing. 

Place a large round piping tip into a piping bag and fill the bag with buttercream. Pipe onto the cupcake to create a neatly domed mound. Gently lift an embossed icing circle onto the cake. Top with three buttons.

To create the baby bunting cupcakes:

4 pastel baby bunting baby shower cupcakes

Roll out some coloured icing to approximately 3 mm thick. Place over an embossing mat (I used one from this set) and roll over again with a rolling pin. Gently remove from the embossing plate and use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles of embossed icing. 

Place a large round piping tip into a piping bag and fill the bag with buttercream. Pipe onto the cupcake to create a neatly domed mound. Gently lift an embossed icing circle onto the cake. 

Roll out some coloured icing to approx. 2mm thick. Use a large and a small triangle cutter to cut out triangles of icing. Roll out some white icing to approx. 2mm thick. Use alphabet cutters to stamp out letters to spell “baby”. Use a little water to attach the letters to the big triangles of icing. Use a little more water to attach the big triangles to the icing-topped cupcakes. Attach little triangles onto each side of the large triangles. Roll a thin strip of white icing into a string and attach gently across the  top of the triangles.  

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes

Cherry topped chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream

I’ve been asked by a colleague at work to make some cupcakes for her daughter-in-law’s baby shower. Now, I've always said that I wasn’t interested in making cakes for sale, however, they only want 12 cupcakes – and I’ve not got plans for next weekend, so I decided to say yes. However, first problem – they would like 6 lemon and 6 chocolate. Lemon - I can do, no problem. Chocolate – now there’s the problem, I don’t generally make chocolate cakes (other than red velvet, which is a generally very light chocolate cake).  The truth is, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, and less so of chocolate cake – so I just don’t generally make it!

So, I decided that I ought to have a practise this weekend – I turned to my ever reliable Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book and found their chocolate cupcake recipe right near the start. It is a bit of a faffy recipe – melting the chocolate, creaming the butter and sugar, beating the egg yolks separately (I’m not completely convinced why this is necessary – but hey, the recipe works, so who I am to argue?), whisking the egg whites to soft peaks … And the recipe says that it should be a “fairly liquid batter” – which mine definitely wasn’t – which made me very concerned. However, the cakes turned out brilliantly – incredibly light and fluffy, so all the hard work is definitely worth it!

I made one big mistake – I didn’t check how many the recipe made – and just divided the mixture between 12 cupcake cases. It appeared to fill the cases to about 2/3rds so it looked about right. However, the recipe does say that it makes 16! These cakes rose – lots! And ended up huge and spilling out of the cases – oops!

I did make one change to the standard chocolate cupcake recipe – I had some cherry brandy liqueur hanging around in the kitchen so I decided to replace 50ml 0f the milk with cherry brandy. However, this didn’t really show up in the flavour of the cupcakes – may try adding more next time. I also added a filling of cherry jam and added cherry brandy to the buttercream mixture as well.

Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes
(makes 16)

6 cherry topped chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream

  1. 115g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  2. 85g butter, at room temperature
  3. 175g soft brown sugar
  4. 2 large eggs, separated
  5. 186g plain flour
  6. ¾ tsp baking powder
  7. ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. Pinch of salt
  9. 150ml milk
  10. 100ml cherry brandy liqueur
  11. Approx 4 tblsp good quality cherry jam
  12. 12 cherries


  1. 175g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  2. 225g butter, at room temperature
  3. 1.5 tblsp cherry brandy
  4. 250g icing sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a couple of 12 hole cupcake tins with 16 cupcake cases.
  2. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a glass bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until it is completely melted and smooth. Set to one side to cool slightly.  
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  4. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg yolks for several minutes.
  5. Gradually add the beaten egg yolks to the creamed mixture and beat well.
  6. Add the melted chocolate to the mixture and beat well.
  7. Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  8. Put the milk in a jug and add the cherry brandy.  
  9. Add one third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  10. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  11. Continue to add the flour mix and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  12. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form.
  13. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter, using a metal spoon. Do not beat or you will lose the air.
  14. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 1/2 full.
  15. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  16. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling. 
  17. While the cakes are in the oven, make up the buttercream:
  18. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a glass bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until it is completely melted and smooth. Set to one side to cool slightly. 
  19. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, cherry brandy and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  20. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  21. Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy.

To fill and decorate:

  1. Once cakes are cooked and cooled, use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of cherry jam and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Place buttercream into an icing bag with a star shaped nozzle (I use the Wilton 1M nozzle). Swirl onto cupcakes.
  5. Top each cake with a cherry (you could drizzle the cherries with melted chocolate).