Thanks for joining me on my blog - feel free to use, adapt and enjoy all the recipes here and make suggestions too - I take requests!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fab Fairy Cakes

In our family the cup cake versus fairy cake debate is a contentious issue – I love Fairy Cakes, they are light and fluffy and easy to make and decorate – no need for cream cheese icing or anything fancy, they are an everyday treat not something that comes home from a yuppie cafe in a fancy box!  My lovely Roisin, 7 year old princess of this kingdom, prefers fairy cakes as does my 39 year old husband and 38 year old self so I horrified when visiting my brother’s house to hear that his children had never even heard of fairy cakes, firmly a cup cake family!  Not that they bake anything that doesn’t come from a packet and contain so many additives and so much salt that I can hear their arteries hardening from here. 

I gave a friend this recipe and she bemoaned the fact that hers didn’t turn out as nice as mine, even claimed I didn’t give her the correct recipe.  I did.  She didn’t want the hassle of using 2 bowls so ignored step 2 – beating the whites of the egg into a meringue separately – which is so important.  To keep these little beauties light and fluffy this is essential, if you skip this you will have a much denser mixture and a much heavier bun.

The other thing to mention with these cakes is the quality chocolate covering is unimportant, unlike other times when the coca content is very important, just pick a brand you like and go for it.  Why not let the kids stick their favourite sweets into the chocolate.  Remember giving them one or two fairy cakes is not like giving them a full bar of chocolate or candy, there is just not the same amount of sweets on top.


100g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs separated
¾  teaspoons vanilla extract
75ml milk
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

To Decorate
100g milk chocolate
Chocolate sprinkles or whatever you like!

  1. Pre heat oven to 180oC
  2. In a clean, dry bowl whisk the egg whites until they are stiff (if you think the bowl has some greasy residue on it simply pour some lemon juice onto a piece of kitchen paper and wipe the sides and bottom of the bowl with this, it will cut through the grease and ensure your egg whites beat properly)
  3. In another bowl cream together the butter and sugar
  4. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract and milk, continuing to whisk at all times
  5. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt
  6. Fold in the egg whites, I recommend first putting about 1 tablespoon of egg white into the batter and mixing this in then fold in the remainder trying to keep as much air in as possible.
  7. Divide into 12 muffin cases (using muffin cases makes it easier to decorate later)
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, place a tooth pick into the centre of a cake and if it comes out clean they are done!
  9. Leave on a wire rack to cool
  10. Melt the chocolate over a ban mare and spoon onto the top of the fairy cakes and compete the decoration with whatever you like
  11. Enjoy!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Super Simple Soda Bread

Bread scares most people, kneading, proofing and knocking back put fear into the hearts of even the most experienced home baker, it took me several failures to master it.  However good old fashioned Soda Bread requires none of the above, in fact the only secret to excellent Soda Bread is ……. Less is more!

I don’t know where I got this recipe from, in fact this may be the first time I’ve ever written it down, it may be from my school principal in primary school, Sr. Gemma, who was my first (and last) formal cookery teacher.  I’ve been making Soda Bread since I was old enough to use the cooker without adult help (approx 28yrs).  The amount of salt you use is really up to you, I find ½ teaspoon plenty but I tend to prefer to go light on the salt, try it a few times and soon you’ll know how much suits you.  I’m not 100% sure why the amount of buttermilk varies, I think it’s something to do with the weather, the warmer it is the more buttermilk is required, it may also have to do with the batch of buttermilk you’re using and the mood of the miller on the day the flour was milled, the alignment of the planets and the mood of your youngest child, all I know is start with less and add more!

The raising agent in this bread is the same as for my scones – the chemical reaction between bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) and buttermilk.  But make sure you have preheated the oven and it’s up to temperature before you start to make the mixture as it mixes together so quickly and the chemical reaction starts immediately, without heat, so you’ll end up with cavities in the bread if you leave it to stand before baking. 

You can also make brown soda bread by replacing the white flour with some wholemeal, I don’t recommend doing a full replacement, the most I’ve done successfully is 75% wholemeal and 25% white, the wholemeal flour is thirstier than the white flour so you will need more buttermilk!

The less you work the wet bread mixture the lighter and nicer the result.  In fact I don’t even bother to flour a board and work the mixture together in the bowl instead, it saves cleaning up and makes sure I only do enough to bring the mixture together and I get fail safe results, so now to the recipe batman!

Soda Bread

450g (1 lb) plain white flour (not strong)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bread soda
350mls to 450mls buttermilk


  • Preheat your oven to 220oC
  • Sift your dry ingredients together, make sure the bread soda is broken up and mix thoroughly
  • Add approx 300mls of the butter milk, make a claw with your hand and mix thoroughly, adding more buttermilk when necessary, a bit at a time, all the time mixing with your ‘claw’

  • When the mixture is coming together nicely stop adding buttermilk, bring the mixture together in a ball
  • Place the mixture on the baking tray and flatten it out, cut a cross in the top and place in the oven
  • After about 25 minutes turn the bread over to avoid a soggy bottom (avoiding a soggy bottom is a life lesson not just a baking lesson)
  • After another 10 minutes test the bread, if when you knock the base of the bread you hear a hollow sound it’s ready, if not give it another few minutes.
  • Once it’s cooked allow it to cool on a wire rack.

Don’t be tempted to eat is straight out of the oven unless you live alone and are not expecting company, you will fart and fart and fart, you get the picture.  You can eat it slightly warm but make sure it has cooled sufficiently.

A note on oven temperatures:  I give the temperature that works for me.  Your oven is different to mine, be mindful of this, if your bread is getting too brown on the crust too quickly cook your bread at a lower temperature, lower it by say 10oC and see if that works for you.  If it does then if you decide to bake more of my recipes (and I really hope you do) adjust your temperature by the same amount each time.

Next Time: Family Favourite Fairy Cakes

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cure All Cookie

So sometimes you feel all virtuous and wonderful and that apple really satisfies you, but other times if you don’t have some chocolate you might kill someone.  But what to have, milk chocolate will satisfy the initial craving but ½ hour later you’re going through the cupboard in search of MORE! 

My recommendation is my Giant Chocolate Cookie, they are made with 70% coco dark chocolate, milk chocolate chips, brown and regular sugar and vanilla extract.  For some reason, and I’m not a nutritionist, the high coco content seems to give lasting satisfaction and one is enough – not a phrase I’m used to using, most of the time one is never enough!

This recipe calls for very little flour, but don’t worry they are very much a biscuit!

I recommend you purchase reusable baking sheets, not only do they eliminate the need for grease proof paper the also mean that you don’t have to butter the grease proof paper to make sure that the cookies never stick.  They are only a couple of Euros but they save a lot of hassle!

Don’t be tempted to melt the chocolate in a microwave unless it’s something you do frequently, it burns very easily (just ask my friend who runs a crèche who’s fire alarm is regularly triggered by the staff nuking the chocolate to make crispy buns!).  You don’t need an expensive ban-maree, just get a glass bowl and sit it over a pan of water but make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water!

Ingredients – Makes 10 approx

125g dark chocolate (must be more than 70% coca)
150g plain flour
30g coca (recommend coca rouge if you can get it)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
125g unsalted butter
75g brown sugar
50g caster (superfine) sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!!)
1 large egg (from the fridge)
350g milk chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 170oC
  2. Melt the chocolate in a ban-maree.
  3. With an electric mixer cream the butter and sugars together
  4. Add the melted chocolate to the creamed butter and sugar and mix well
  5. Beat the egg and vanilla together and mix into the mixture from step 3 above
  6. Sift in the flour, coca and bicarbonate of soda into the wet mixture until it’s all combined
  7. Mix in all the chocolate chips, the mixture is quite heavy at this point but make sure they are evenly spread through the mixture
  8. Divide the mixture into 10 to 12 large scoops over 2 baking trays with plenty of room to spread out as the mixture will spread as it bakes
  9. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, until a skewer can come out clean when you pierce the cookie but if you hit a chocolate chip try again!
  10. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

The cookies can be kept for a few days in an airtight container – if they last that long!!!!!!

Next Time: Soda Bread

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Perfect Scone

Everybody seems to have their own recipe for the perfect scone, but to be honest some are pretty bland, more turn out like rock cakes and some are like flying saucers. 

Follow my recipe and steps below and I’ll help you make delicious, sweet scones that everybody will enjoy!


150g butter (at room temperature)
450g self raising flour (or 450g plain flour and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda)
Pinch salt
80g caster (superfine) sugar
3 medium eggs
90mls buttermilk

1.      Preheat the oven to 220oC
2.      Rub together the butter, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda (if using) until the mixture is like breadcrumbs
3.      add the sugar and mix through
4.      beat the eggs and buttermilk together
5.      Add 2/3 of the egg/buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture and bring together with your hand, add more if the mixture is too dry but be patient and don’t add extra until you’ve worked the mixture a bit!
6.      Roll out to ½ inch thickness on a floured surface and using a scone cutter cut into 10 or 12 scones
7.      Place the scones on a lined baking tray and brush with the left over egg/buttermilk mix
8.      Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how thick you’ve made them)
9.      Place on a wire rack to cool slightly
10.  Enjoy!

Before you add the egg/buttermilk mixture you can add other ingredients to make your scones more you!  My suggestions:
  • Currants
  • Sultanas
  • Dried blueberries
  • Dried Strawberries
  • Dried Bananas
  • Frozen Rasberries

If you can’t get buttermilk you can make a substitute – recipe below:
400ml milk
Juice of ½ lemon
Heat the milk gently until it is warm, remove from the heat and add the juice of ½ a lemon.
Leave at room temperature overnight.

The equipment you use is also important, below is a picture of mine!

A large mixing bowl is essential but it doesn’t need to be an expensive ceramic job, my cheap and cheerful plastic bowl has served me well for over 5 years now.
A good notebook is essential as you may wish to tweak recipes, I recommend you write them down in black pen and make any adjustments in green or red, leave plenty of space between recipes for amendments and make any recipe you use your own!
I use a basting brush to brush on egg whites for 2 reasons:
  1. I like that it can withstand high temperatures so I can us it for other things such as brushing melted butter on a pan when making pancakes
  2. I broke my pastry brush!
I use a clever little masher for breaking up the butter, I’ve got warm hands which is not the best for pastry making as the butter tends to melt in my hands when I’m trying to crumb it but this gadget means I don’t have to handle it too much.
I also have a set of measuring spoons, I know everybody has teaspoons and probably tablespoons in their kitchen but I like having a single tool and not having to search around in the kitchen drawers, usually when I have flour on my hands, for a tablespoon!
A good solid rolling pin is essential, for threatening the hubbie as much as for rolling out the scones!  I like my wooden one, I’ve had it for years, a friend did buy me a marble one once but it was too heavy to work with.
A digital weighing scale is also useful, cooking is great for throwing things into a pot and getting a great result but baking is alchemy, you must get the ingredients in the right ratio in order to get the right results, guestimating is not an option!
Wire cooling racks are also essential for cooling, some baked items, such as scones, are great straight from the oven but soda bread (which I’ll be doing in a few weeks time) will give you gas if you eat it too warm and no-one wants to break bread with a farting Freda!

Please leave your questions as comments and I’ll answer them.