Another Winner from Mary Berry

Gateau Aux Amandes

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is scarely six months in the Hen House, but already it’s a staple on my cookbook shelves. Most of her recipes are really easy to follow, but this cake is more of a challenge. That said, the end result looks great. And, more importantly, it tastes just delicious, especially if you are, like me, fond of the coffee and almond combination.

With Easter around the corner, or, indeed, if you’re welcoming special guests for tea, this cake will fit the bill.

Gateau Moka Aux Amandes


3 large eggs
100g/4 oz caster sugar
75g/3 oz self-raising flour

For the crème au beurre moka(coffee butter cream)
75g/3oz caster sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 large egg yolks
175g/6oz softened butter
1-2 tablespoons coffee essence

To finish
175g/6oz shredded or flaked toasted almonds
icing sugar for dusting(optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 190c/Fan 170c/Gas 5. Grease a nine inch deep round cake tin then line the base with baking parchment.

Measure the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk at full speed until the mixture is pale in colour and thick enough to just leave a trail with the whisk is lifted. Sift the flour over the surface of the mixture and gently fold in with a metal spoon or spatula. Turn into the prepared tin.

Bake in the preheated over for about 30 minutes or until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

To make the crème au beurre moka measure the sugar and water into a small heavy-based pan. Heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then boil steadily for 2-3 minutes until it has reached a temperature of 107 Celsius on a sugar thermometer, or until the syrup forms a slim thread when pulled apart between two teaspoons.

Place the egg yolks into a bowl and give them a quick stir to break them up. Oour the sugar syrup in a thin stream on the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and cold. In another bowl, cream the butter until soft and gradually beat in the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the coffee essence to flavour.

Cut the cake horizontally and sandwich the slices together with a think layer of the coffee butter cream over the top and sides of the cake as well, retaining some for decoration. Press the toasted almonds all over the sides of the cake. Dust with icing sugar and, if you’re up to it(and frankly, I am lousy at this kind of thing) pipe rosettes with the remaining butter cream all around the top.


Yes, I am sure the rosettes would make this cake look even prettier, but even without, it was pretty much demolished on sight in the Hen House.

Another winner from Mary Berry. Bon appetite!

Cross Training

>Cafe Disappointment

With an eight mile run under my belt yesterday evening, I decided to take a break today.

Cross-training was the name of the game. Many of my fellow Juneathoners been very adventurous in this regard. Moorhen thinks yoga and meditation count Shaz thinks buying a coke in Spar is a Juneathon activity, while, another blogger, who shall remain nameless but knows who she is, insists that horizontal jogging is a Juneathon activity.

People, you are pushing your Juneathon luck.

Moi, on the other hand, I engaged in one very brisk walk today. Two miles, through the city AND trailing reluctant Teen Chook behind me. Now THAT`S Cross training.;-)

The plan was that my destination would undo-I hoped-every ounce of good the walk would deliver.

Destination? A pretty little coffee shop. I would abandon my cholesterol austerity diet and eat cake!

Reason for Teen Chook`s reluctance? “Mum, you know I HATE `pretty` and `little`.

I should`ve listened to the girl.

The café`s website was superb. It screamed “chic ” and “hip”.  See above pic.

Oh, there were other pics too showing the on trend mismatch of vintage china, rockabilly inspired decor and delectable cakes everywhere.

I couldn`t wait to get there.

But reality dealt me a cruel blow.

Glass doors opened into an average sized room. Half of it was taken up with a huge and chaotic kitchen.  The eating area itself is comprised of seven or eight small tables with barely walking room between them.  The waitress pointed to the only vacant table and as I sank into the bentwood chair, my heart sank too.

I was facing the kitchen. Though the dividing wall was quite high I could see enough to convince me that the kitchen was a mess. The staff themselves looked slovenly. One sported a loose top that kept slipping over her shoulder revealing a dirty bra strap, another rubbed an icing ruler  on his face, while utensils and pots and pans were is disarray everywhere. The garland that hung on the ceiling, as depicted in the website pictures, still hung on the ceiling, but it was dirty and frayed.


Meanwhile the cakes. for which this café claims to be famous, were left on open display and uncovered in a particularly busy part of the dining area. Not that they were any great shakes either. The sponge was overfilled with cream, and the lemon cake had sunken badly. There was a fruity traybake  on one stand but it didn`t match anything on the menu.

I ordered a coffee,  a plain scone and homemade jam. Daughter ordered the overfilled sponge. I cringed while I waited.

I got a good look at the floor. Filthy, filthy, filthy. You know the gunge that builds up at the doorstep and in corners? The bit you get down on your hands and knees for and gouge out of it every couple of weeks? It was all there. The yard outside had all the look of a place that had never been swept. The grime continued up the wrought iron pedestals of the tables.

I had to use the bathroom facilities. Too bad. The room leading from the diningroom and into the bathroom was a floor to ceiling jumble of cake boxes and cake boards.And the clutter continued into the toilet area. There was only one for customer use. And it was packed with posters and leaflets and all kinds of magazines, presumably to give it that hippy, eclectic look.  It just reminded me of dirt and chaos.

My scone arrived. It was cold, and rock hard on the outside. Overcooked. I ate half of it. The coffee was okay. The jam was definitely homemade: it hadn`t set. Daughter ate her cake but without any relish.  I paid. I didn`t complain because nobody looked like they were terribly interested or even very much in charge. We fled.

Yes, all this was training. And it left me very cross indeed. Now, that`s cross training! Junethon Day 28 done!





Disappearing Cake and Frittata Disasta

Like the Little Red Hen in the fairytale, I am well regarded by the three teens for my cake making skills. And I am happy to declare this as the easiest peasiest cake you will ever bake.Not only could you do it all by yourself, you could do it blindfold and with one hand tied behind your back. Though, frankly, I don`t know why you`d want to look so ridiculous.
Pain d`épice

The recipe is from Annie Bell`s “Gorgeous Cakes”

It`s called “Pain D`epice” but already my kids have named it “Disappearing Cake”

Disappearing Cake
125 g plain flour, sifted
150g icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted
2 tsp baking powder, sifted
175 g unsalted butter, softened
4 medium eggs.

Preheat oven to 170 fan/190 C/Gas mark 5. Grease a 22 cm (1.3L) loaf tin. Bung all the ingredients into a food processor.(I just use my ordinary cake mixer.) Put into the loaf tin, smooth the top of the cake and bake for 45 min, or until a skewer inserted into the centre, comes out clean.


I didn`t even have to tell my kids to eat. The cake just disappeared.

Not so this frittata. We learn from our mistakes, for sure. This was one very big mistake.



You know how much I love eggs? Right? There were eight in this one. Courgettes? Yum. This pie had four. Goats cheese? Nomnom. Had 200g of such deliciousness into the mix.

With all three ingredients, and a heap of other flavourings, I thought I`d triple the deliciousness. Wrong, wrong, wrong! And the teens weren`t behind the door about delivering their verdict.

“Rank” “Mingin” Disgusting.
(No, I hadn`t heard the word “mingin” before either but I can guess it`s not a good thing.)

“Mum, it looks like the garden.”

“Ugh! It tastes like grass.” That comment came after a dramatic dash to the kitchen bin to spit out the offending forkful.

I pretty much eat anything I`ve cooked. Not because I love it, but because “Waste not, want not” was my parents` motto (I`m bagging that theme for another blog post…) and this was healthy too. I can eat sardines straight out of the tin because they`ve got CALCIUM and PROTEIN. Taste is immaterial. I`m Irish, not French y`know. We remember the Famine.

But gosh, even I could not eat the Frittata.

That made it official then: the Frittata was a Disaster.

Win some, lose some. `Tis the way of the world. I won`t post up the Frittata recipe, then, for obvious reasons. I won`t even blacken the name of the chef I bagged it from because I am such a huge fan of hers. Even great chefs can have little disasters.

And so can Little Red Hen.

Maybe I should, for now at any rate, stick to baking cakes.