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Category Archives: Baking

Cake Club: Healthy(ish) Malt Loaf

Months ago, when Andy was feeling poorly my Mum gave me a jar of Malt Extract for him. She’d bought it on a nostalgic whim remembering how her own Mother would line her and her brother up for their daily dose, as was the trend in post-war Britain, as a cheap dose of nutrients for Fifties’ children. A spoonful in, however and the vile taste diminished her rose-tinted memories and the actual memory of being forced to down spoonfuls of this thick, disgusting elixir hastily found the jar heading our way. Thanks, Mum.

Needless to say Andy never did dare take any (have you smelt it?) and it’s been lurking at the back of the cupboard with the rice vinegar and green teabags (swamp juice) ever since.

My endless quest for healthy snacks to give my kids, and with the days of creating interesting and nutritious lunchboxes on the horizon saw me seeking out malt loaf recipes. A click on to the failsafe BBC Good Food site led me to a recipe and FINALLY I could make use of this hideous goo and make it into something nice.

It’s turned out a treat. A big hit with the kids, it’s a-sponge-which-thinks-it’s-a cake-but-is not-actually-a-cake. It contains a considerable amount less sugar and no fat (bar the eggs, but that’s minimal). Give it a go, it’s gooey, sticky and great spread with butter. Everything a malt loaf should be.

You will need:

150ml hot black tea
175g malt extract (sold in health food shops)
85g dark muscovado sugar
300g mixed dried fruit (I only had sultanas)
2 large eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

1. Heat oven to 150c/130 fan/gas 2 and line 2 1lb loaf tins
2. Add the tea, fruit, malt extract and sugar to a bowl and stir well
3. Mix in the beaten eggs
4. Tip in the flour, quickly followed by the baking powder and bicarb
5. Stir well and pour into the prepared tins
6. Bake for 50 mins until firm and well-risen
7. Remove from tins and cool

The recipe says to then wrap and keep for 2-5 days before eating as it becomes more sticky but really, who can wait that long? We tucked in as soon as it was cool enough for the butter not to melt and it was perfect. A definite lunchbox thumbs up.

N.B. I don’t have 1lb loaf tins so just did the whole thing in a 2lb tin. I baked at 140c (fan oven) for 1hr 20 mins

Cake Club: Apple and raisin cake

If there were an X-Factor style contest for cakes (Cake-Factor, if you will), this would be the one on stage at the end, surrounded by sparkly ticker tape singing ‘You Raise Me Up’. Incidentally, how amazing would a Cake-Factor be? Bagsy head judge.

Yep, this is my go-to cake, the one I come back to evey time I need a comforting internal hug of the cakey bakey kind. I first ate it at the christening of a friend’s baby years ago. Her Mum had baked it, eshewing the traditional stodgy fruitcake and, my what a good choice. I found the recipe online, adapted from a WI recipe from a member of an online recipe sharing forum.

You will need…

350g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
150g butter
150g caster sugar
350g apples (I’ve used both eating and cooking apples and it works well with each)
25g demerara sugar plus extra for sprinkling
1tsp ground cinnamon
115g raisins or sultanas
2 eggs
125ml milk

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees/160 fan.

Peel and core the apples then slice finely. Mix with 25g of the demerara sugar and the cinnamon until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift the baking powder and flour in together then rub the butter in until you have fine breadcrumbs (or make life easy for youself and pulse in a food processor until you have the same effect). Stir in the caster sugar.

Mix the apples into the flour mixture, followed by the raisins or sultananas.

Stir in the eggs and enough milk (you may not need the full amount) to form a soft, gloopy dough which dollops easily of the spoon when you lift it up.

Spoon the dough into the prepared tin, level out and sprinkle with the rest of the demerara sugar.

Bake for 1-1.5 hours until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the top starts to burn, pop a bit of tin foil over the tin.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack. I have never managed to cool this cake completely. It’s at it’s absolute best when served warm, in a bowl, with masses of custard. Delish. Enjoy!

Cake Club: Ginger cake


The recipe calls it ‘Gingerbread’ which, I guess technically it is but gingerbread just makes me think of gingerbread men and other biscuity little guys so it shall henceforth be known as ginger cake. A much more accurate description for it’s lovely, spongy, gooey yumminess.

For the first time in years I actually baked alone. ALONE. No sticky fingers poking into the butter, curious hands scooping out the sugar or small people fighting over who gets to lick the spoon. No, apparently playing farms was much more appealing today so I grabbed the opportunity to have the kitchen all to myself for 20 minutes. Until there was a dispute between the farmers requiring urgent intervention.

I have adapted the recipe from The Great British Book of Baking (I am obsessed with these books, I bow down to the God and Goddess of baking, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry).

You will need:

225g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
115g butter, chilled and cubed
115g treacle
115g golden syrup
115g dark brown sugar
275ml milk (not skimmed)
1 egg, beaten

Grease and line a 900g loaf tin. Or if, like me, you can’t be doing with the faff, just buy some loaf tin liners and bung one in. Heat the oven to 180 c/350 f/gas 4.

Spoon the treacle and golden syrup into a pan and heat until runny. Put the milk and sugar in another pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leave both to cool until lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, do what I did and chuck it all in a food processor and whizz until you have the same texture (seriously, Mary Berry, how much time do you think I have?)

Whisk the milk into the flour mix, quickly followed by the treacle mixture and egg. Continue whisking until you have a thick consistency like double cream. I whisked by hand and stopped when my arm hurt so not for long. My mixture was quite lumpy but I figured it’d still be fine.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning out then wrap in foil and leave for at least a day before cutting*

* Like I’m capable of waiting 24 whole hours to cut into this baby. Enjoy!

Bake me a cake as fast as you can

Yesterday, in honour of my husband’s birthday (like I need an excuse) I made some brownies. I’ve never made brownies before but when I saw the recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy book, I couldn’t resist.

It was all going so well. The Lion King was playing in the living room and the little ones were quiet. Then came Max. He sprang into the room, announcing his desire to ‘help’. So without further ado, here is Lydia & Max’s guide to baking Oreo brownies…

You will need…

165g Butter, plus extra for greasing
200g Dark chocolate, finely grated (after 30 seconds of trying to grate the stupid skinny slab of chocolate which kept snapping, I just chopped it into small pieces, it worked fine)
3 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
The seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsps vanilla extract (I used the latter)
165g Soft light brown sugar
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch salt
154g Pack Oreo biscuits
Icing sugar (for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square tin.

Wash hands. Explain to 2-year-old why they need to wash their hands. Position chair by sink, place 2-year-old on chair. Tell 2-year-old to stay still whilst you wash their hands. Tell 2-year-old not to get down. Recover 2-year-old from the other side of the kitchen and place back on chair. Wash their hands. Tell 2-year-old not to splash. Dry self and 2-year-old.

Position a chair by your working area and place 2-year-old on chair. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Remove from heat and intercept just before 2-year-old’s finger plops into the hot melted butter.

Extract chopped chocolate from 2-year-old’s grasp and explain it’s not for eating now. Add the chocolate to the butter, leave for a few minutes. Intercept again. When the chocolate has melted, stir together. Remove celery stalk from pan. Tell 2-year-old to stir less vigorously. Clean up splattered butter and chocolate mix from worktop/splashbacks/microwave/coffee machine.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Stop 2-year-old drinking vanilla extract.

Add the sugar in 2 additions, whisking between each. Pour the sugar around the egg mix so as not to knock the air out. (Read: chuck the lot in, followed by the measuring bowl). Remove the bowl and keep whisking until the mixture becomes stiff.

Once the egg mixture is ready, remove 2-year-old’s hand from chocolate mixture and pour in, again around the sides so you don’t knock the air out.

Retrieve eggy whisk from 2-year-old and set aside.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and a third of the biscuits (or whatever you have left that’s not in the child’s mouth). Re-prepare the tin after finding the buttery paper on the dog’s head, stir until combined and pour into the prepared tin.

Scatter the remaining biscuits (if you have any left) over the top, pressing them in slightly, and bake on the middle shelf for 25-30 mins. The middle will be slightly gooey.

Pass chocolatey spatula to 2-year-old so you get A MOMENT’S PEACE and pour yourself a gin.

Leave the brownies to cool in the tin. The top may sink and crack slightly but this will only add to the texture and reflects perfectly on your state of mind.

If you want to see the actual recipe and how it should be done properly, find it here

I just wish I’d taken more pictures, rather than just the end result. Cooking with toddlers is actually very frustrating funny and the state of the kitchen when we’d finished was laughable.

No 2-year-olds or dogs were hurt during the making of these brownies