#Recipe – Apple & Cranberry Traybake

So, who’s watching the new series of the Great British Bake Off then? Me, me, me! I admit, I miss Mary in particular but I’m not bothered who’s presenting it as long as it’s on the tele, ok the adverts are a pain but does anyone watch live tv anymore? That’s why we have recorders (or whatever they’re called).  Anyway, this week was fruity cake week and they were warned that they’re hard to get right.  And oh weren’t they right.

I was given a windfall of fruit this week, mostly apples and rhubarb so then went scouring the Weight Watchers site for a suitable recipe (because I’m still on that diet..sorry lifestyle change) or something that I could adapt and therein lay the problem – I thought I could adapt an established recipe and get away with it and so , I could have named this post several titles: Recipe for Disaster, When Things Don’t Go To Plan, How to Waste Time and Food or Disaster Baking to name but a few.

If you’re interested this is the recipe:

You need:
50g caster sugar
100g low fat spread (I used Flora light)
1 medium egg
250g apple sauce (chunky, from a jar)
150g white self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp level ground cinnamon
40g dried cranberries
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced

What you do:

  • Preheat your oven to gas 4 or fan 160°c.  Line a rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Keep back 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar for topping the cake later, beat the remainder with the low fat spread until creamy.
  • Add the egg and the apple sauce and beat again.
  • Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix well.
  • Stir in the cranberries, then turn into the prepared tin.
  • Arrange the apples on top in four rows.  Sprinkle on the reserved sugar.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes .
  • Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack and cut into 16 squares.

Now, I had so many apples and was looking for a way to reduce the calories so I thought hey I’ll make my own apple sauce! Good hey! I used about 8 apples of varying sizes and types, peeled, cored and sliced into chunks, put them in a saucepan with about 1/4 pint water and 50g caster sugar, boiled, then simmered until the apples were mushy.  This was a success! Yummy apple sauce.

The cake was a disaster!

I substituted the jarred apple sauce for my own, ensuring all excess water was drained off and swapped the cranberries for a bit of rhubarb.  Sounds ok doesn’t it? Nothing too dramatic going on here!

What I wanted

What I Got








My cake didn’t rise, it took over an hour to ‘bake’ (after I’d taken it out and then put it back in) and it looked vile.  I did try a bit and whilst it was edible I wasn’t prepared to serve it up to my work colleagues.

So what went wrong?

The oven probably needed to be at a higher temperature other than that I don’t know.

So let’s hope for something better next time….

Book Review: Recipe for Life; The Autobiography by Mary Berry

Recipe for LifeWhat’s it about?

From the moment she came into the world – two weeks early, throwing her parents’ lives into disarray – Mary has gracefully but firmly done things her own way.

Born in 1935, in the city of Bath, Mary’s childhood was a curious mix of idyllic picnics and ramblings, and alarming air raids; of a spirited and outdoorsy home life and a dreaded school existence. All nearly cut horribly short by an almost fatal bout of polio when she was thirteen, which isolated Mary in hospital, away from beloved family and friends for months.

Recovery saw her turn to her one true passion – cookery. And so began a love affair that has – so far – spanned six remarkable decades; from demonstrating ovens in the early 1950s to producing glossy food magazines in the 60s and 70s, gradually becoming the country’s most prolific and – many would say – best loved cookery writer. Until her emergence in the 21st century as a TV sensation and style icon on the Great British Bake Off.

As a working mother, at the heart of a busy household, Mary became an expert at the art of juggling, even bringing her working life into her home with her Aga school. And there have been challenges, one terrible tragedy and many joys along the way.

My thoughts

As a fan of the Great British Bake Off and the charms of Mary Berry I’d had her autobiography on my book shelf since a couple of Christmasses ago but with the show starting this month I decided now was a good time to read it.  I noticed from the first few pages that Mary’s voice just comes out of the pages so definitely feels that she properly wrote the book 😉

If you’ve ever wondered how Mary grew to fame and why she’s considered the baking authority she is then this will give you all that and much more.  Marking or grading how interesting someone’s life is seems quite harsh  but for me this was a 5*.  I suppose you read an autobiography because you like that person and already have an interest in them and I know I’m bias because I am a Mary fan, and yes this book is quite twee, very middle class and fortunate and some of it comes across as very jolly hockey sticks but it’s also her life laid bare; wonderfully inspirational with some very sad and touching memories which endears her all the more to me.

And I just like her a little bit more for this quote on walking….

I was young, walking for walking’s own sake was to be avoided if at all possible.

Interspersed with Mary’s memories are lots of photos and some of her recipes, my favourite was right at the end of the book – Wonderful Apple Cake, I’ll have a go at baking that soon as it would be the perfect Autumnal bake.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Visit Mary’s website

Share your bookish posts and news with #TalkoftheTown

Talk of the Town

Mary Berry’s Perfect Victoria Sponge

Last week’s Great British Bake Off episode was Victorian week, I searched around various websites looking for something I could have a go at; considered this Classic Pound Cake  and checked out these Victorian Cake Recipes but in the end I went for simple, a cake named for a Queen and decided to bake a really nice Victoria sponge for my work colleagues.

As Paul Hollywood would say, if you’re going to bake something basic, you need to do it really well. I’m happy to master the basics rather than make a game or pigeon pie thanks very much.

I love Mary Berry’s classic recipe because it’s just a chuck it all in one go method which can’t really go wrong and I’ve always had great results. One of my colleagues said to me “it was so light, it was like eating air”, well that means you can have 2 slices I say!

What you’ll need:

For the spongeIMG_1375

225g soft butter
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs

For the filling and topping

About 4 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam
5oz butter, softened
10oz icing sugar, with a little for dusting
1-2tbsp milk
Flavouring if required (I used some vanilla essence)

What you do:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c. Grease and line 2 x sandwich tins.

Put the butter in a large mixing bowl, and add the caster sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs (basically, chuck all your ingredients in the bowl together).

Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes until smooth and then divide between the 2 tins equally.

Victoria SpongeBake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden brown.

Victoria SpongeWhilst the cake is cooling you can make the buttercream filling if you’d like some by combining the butter, icing sugar and any flavouring using the milk to bind as needed. Spread over the bottom layer of the cake. Spread your jam on top of the buttercream, and place the top sponge layer on top.

Victoria SpongeDust with icing sugar to serve and enjoy!

Victoria Sponge

Till next time….



Simnel ‘Chelsea’ Buns

Inspired by last weeks episode of the Great British Bake Off which was bread week, I baked some Simnel ‘Chelsea’ Buns from my Everyday Bake Off recipe book (page 170).


What you’ll need:

200ml milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)  IMG_1260
50g unsalted butter
450g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light brown muscavado sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150g luxury dried fruit
1 medium free-range egg, at room temperature
400g white marzipan

To finish:

100g icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons lemon juice

What you do:

Firstly, just let me say that as previously mentioned I do my baking on a budget. Therefore I didn’t go out and buy luxury dried fruit, I made do with the regular sultanas I had, and I used yellow marzipan as I had some left over from a previous recipe. The buns tasted delicious so have no hesitation in improvising.

Put the milk and butter into a pan and warm on a low heat to melt the butter. Leave to cool till lukewarm.

Chelsea Buns

Put the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, lemon zest, and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl  and mix throughly.

Chelsea Buns

Make a well in the middle. Beat the egg into the milk/butter mixture and pour into the well. Work it all together by hand or with a dough hook to form soft but not sticky dough.

Chelsea Buns

Lightly dust hands and work surface and knead thoroughly for about 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film or lid and leave to rise for about an hour. I was so pleased because this was the first time when using bread flour and yeast and leaving something to rise; it actually did!! Whoop whoop!

Uncover the dough and punch down the dough to flatten. Turn onto lightly floured work top and cut into 2 pieces. Roll out one half to approx 36 x 18cm.

Gently knead the marzipan, cut in half and roll to a thin rectangle to fit your dough.

Chelsea BunsPlace the marzipan on top of the dough and gently press and roll up like a swiss roll. Cut evenly with a sharp knife into 8 even slices. I’d used half the ingredients so I only cut mine into 4.

Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Chelsea Buns

Arrange them cut side up into a greased tin, so they are barely touching, they will join up as the dough rises and when cooking. Cover with a dry tea towel or cling film and leave for approx 35-45 minutes.

Chelsea Buns

Towards the end of this proofing time, heat the oven to 200°c. Bake for approx 25 minutes until golden brown.

While the buns are baking make up the icing. Make a smooth, thick but spreadable icing.

Chelsea Buns

Remove the tin from the oven and place on a wire rack, leave to cool for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edge and turn out the buns.

Chelsea BunsSpoon over the lemon icing and leave to cool before pulling them apart.

In hindsight, the tin that I used was too big for the amount of buns made. You can see from the the photo above that the top row of buns didn’t fuse together. The bottom row weren’t too bad but I’ll know for next time 😉 and they tasted delicious warm from the oven. Very pleased with these!

Chelsea Buns






Lemon Madeira Cake

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off returning to our screens this week, I’ve had a go at the contestants first challenge – a Madeira cake which isn’t something I’ve baked either.

Here’s what you’ll need:


175g butter, softened IMG_1194
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Few drops vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds


What you need to do:

Heat the oven to 170°c and grease/line the a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Lining a tin is so much easier than it looks; this one took almost as long as mixing up the loaf batter.

Madeira Cake

Use an electric whisk to beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. I like to chop the butter into small pieces to help out my aged mixer 🙂

Madeira CakeThen beat in the eggs into the mixture one at a time.Madeira CakeAdd the lemon zest, vanilla and ground almonds.

Madeira CakeNow beat in the flour until you have a thick batter. It’s quite a strange consistency, it’s not as runny as a sponge cake recipe would be; however, the batter should be loose enough to fall off a spoon, if not add a little milk. Tip the mixture into the tin and smooth the top.

Madeira CakeBake for 55 minutes – 1 hour until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack. I was delighted with the dome rise and ‘the crack’ on my Madeira cake and finished it off with a basic glacé icing.

Madeira Cake

Can’t promise I’ll attempt what they bake next week 😉