Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Archive for the ‘cake’ Category

Cake made with 100 per cent love

with 3 comments

Every year (twice a year), it is the same thing: I have a compulsion to make my children’s birthday cakes.

For me, it is a gift to my children that cannot be measured. It says, “I know I’m often busy, but I love you very much – and I baked a cake to prove it”.

This – as a statement in itself – is pathetic and I know it. (I do do other things to prove my love to my children, like talking to them, hugging them, kissing them and generally looking after them to the best of my ability).

Actually,  it’s probably more to do with compensating for the fact that I am often busy and cannot collect them from school or, on occasion, go to the school assemblies/special productions or workshops.

But it is important to me, and hopefully my children, that this small gesture is carried out each year. My guess is that they don’t care where their cake comes from, so long as there is one, but I love discussing the theme of it and having a go at decorating it.

I’ve done a handbag, Ariel, chocolate explosion, football pitch – or scoured the internet for a topper that they wanted.

It usually ends up costing two or three times the amount of a shop-bought cake. But I don’t mind. I hate the taste of the ready-made supermarket cakes. They are too sweet and I don’t like the jam and buttercream in them.

This year, the (shop-bought – I’m not totally mad) fondant was a disaster: too soft and it wouldn’t mould at all. In a panic, I dashed to the cakemaking supply shop and was told in supercilious tones that I needed gum tragapanth. The assistant might as well have rolled her eyes in disgust when I explained I had no idea what she as talking about.

Anyway, this magic powder, once kneaded into the sticky fondant, transforms it into something mouldable and easy to work with. And, reader, I am delighted to tell you that it worked a dream.

It put me 24 hours behind schedule because you have to allow the time for the alchemy to work. The jewellery box cake had all the hallmarks of a homemade confection: it was slightly wobbly; the fondant cracked on the sides and I rolled it out in such a way that it didn’t quite fit in parts. My cutting skills also leave a lot to be desired.

But it was made with 100 per cent love for my not-so-little girl – and she loved it.

Written by CommonPeople

April 25, 2010 at 6:11 am

Nigel Slater’s chocolate beetroot cake (yum)

leave a comment »

I must admit I didn’t have much hope about this cake. I imagined that it would be vile. But I should know better:  I have never followed a Nigel Slater recipe and have anything but a fantastic end result.

(Must admit, though, I didn’t cook this cake. My husband did!)

Serves 8


250g beetroot

200g fine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

4tbsps hot espresso

200g butter

135g plain flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

3 tbsps good quality cocoa powder

5 eggs

190g caster sugar


Lightly butter a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Line the base with baking parchment.

Pre heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4

Cook the beetroot, whole and unpeeled, in boiled unsalted water (30-40mins). Drain, let them cool.

Once cool, peel them (under running water), slice off the stem and root. Puree roughly.

Separate the bar of chocolate into small cubes and place them into a small glass bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and allow chocolate to melt. Do not let the simmering water touch the bowl; do not stir the chocolate.

When the chocolate is almost melted, pour in the espresso and stir once.

Cut the butter into very small pieces and add to the melted chocolate. Dip the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon and leave to soften.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large mixing bowl.

Stir the yolks together.

Working quickly, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes and stir in the egg yolks. **Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend intothe mixture. Fold in the beetroot.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold in the sugar. Carefully fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. Using a large metal spoon, fold in a figure of eight. Then fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly into the prepared cake tin. Immediately turn the oven down to 160C/Gas mark 3. Bake for 40 minutes.

(The rim of the cake will feel spongy, but the middle but will wobble a little).

Leave to cool (it will sink a little in the middle). Loosen it around the edges with a palette knife after 30 minutes. Do not remove the cake until completely cold.

Serve with creme fraiche and poppy seeds.

Taken from Nigel Slater Tender. Fourth Estate. £30.



Written by CommonPeople

November 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Best banana cake EVER

leave a comment »

Best Banana Cake EVER


3 ripe bananas (about 400g)

150g softened butter

80g sultanas (optional)

300g plain flour

2tsp  baking powder

½tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 eggs, lightly beaten

80ml sunflower oil


Preheat oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4).

Butter a 900g loaf tin.

Peel and mash the bananas.

Mix butter and sugar together until fluffy, then stir in the bananas and sultanas.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and add it to the banana mix, along with the beaten eggs, beating well as you go along.

Add the oil and mix well.

Pour into loaf tin and cook for 45 minutes (mine sometimes takes up to one hour).

Recipe: Cooking For Kids (The Guardian)

Written by CommonPeople

October 6, 2009 at 6:47 am

Posted in cake

Tagged with , , ,

How sweet it is …

with 2 comments

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the sweetest.

I tweet a lot, as the poor 790 or so poor souls who follow me know.

As a freelance writer, Twitter helps me feel as if I am part of a large, open-plan office with a myriad trades and professions, all working harmoniously (and sometimes, not so harmoniously).

Remote workers are only too aware that home-working can feel isolating – and it’s always your turn to get the coffee.

But online sites such as Twitter have helped to break the monotony of a long day in front of the home computer. It is possible to have 140 character conversations, have a laugh, answer questions and read interesting snippets.

It has also given birth to some marvellous “eureka!” moments – the Twitpanto last Christmas engendered a feeling of camaraderie, while Twitter Titters, a book of comic writing, raised money for Comic Relief.

But it has been a few Twit chats over the past few weeks that have resulted in a rather sweet idea.

It turns out many of us a rather partial to a bit of cake. It doesn’t matter if it is apple, toffee or banana (although chocolate does seem to be a favourite), we love to talk about it.

So much so, that a throwaway comment of “we should have Twit reviews of cake shops and cafes” has led to a new blogsite – a 140 character comment about tea and cakes.

Set up by @mmmmmmcake, I think this is the kind of simple idea that will take off. It is something that people enjoy, because it is fun, it is slightly distracting from the mundane goings-on at work and it is cake.

It is hard to explain to non-Twitter users what tweeting is all about: some look blankly as you make valiant efforts to describe the goings-on; others are keen to try.

A year ago today, I thought I’d give it a try. It took a few weeks, months even, to begin to understand what it was all about.

So, you know what that means, don’t you? It’s a birthday. And what do birthdays mean? Cake. Once I find some, you might find a review.

In the meantime, have a look at the cake blogs at http://bit.ly/Cwk2Z

Written by CommonPeople

September 26, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Posted in cake, Jayne's posts, News/opinion

Tagged with , ,