Club Tropicana Birthday Cake

Yesterday I made a custom cake to order (I do this most weekends, so any requests- throw them my way). This one in particular was for an eleven year old, so it was pretty fun to make and a bit different to the sort of thing I usually offer. I’m not posting the recipe as it’s a compilation of lots of the ideas already on here, but thought I would share some pictures.

( FYI: It’s a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate ganache filling, vanilla buttercream icing, pastel meringues, colourful chocolate shards and some homemade glittery flamingos- might add arts and crafts to the CV?!)





Hope you like the design; if you’re interested in ordering similar custom cakes or are looking for a caterer for birthdays, weddings or any other events, please contact me at – I’m professionally trained and am here to help…

Thanks for stopping by!


Savse Smoothies: Mango Chicken Thai Style Salad

I’ve recently arranged an exciting collaborative series with Savse Smoothies which will involve me incorporating their drinks into my recipes! I will be posting a recipe every couple of weeks and hope to show that whilst their products are really delicious on their own, they can also be used in lots of tasty dishes, both savoury and sweet.

Savse, if you aren’t aware of the brand, specialise in healthy smoothies made up of raw, fresh fruit and vegetables. They sell a core range of five ‘Super’ smoothies (red, orange, purple, blue and green) and make many more specialised drinks. It might come as a surprise looking at my incredibly indulgent bakes, but I eat very healthily and really enjoy cooking with fresh ingredients so this opportunity is really exciting (and a bit of a challenge!).

The first recipe I’ve come up with is inspired by the mango and carrot flavours in the Super Orange smoothie (part of the Savse core range). The street style salad is really fresh and marinating the chicken in the smoothie gives it a sweetness which cuts through the classic Thai flavours of chilli, ginger and coriander I’ve used. I’d recommend making this in bulk on a Sunday night and then portioning it up for no fuss weekday lunches!


Ingredients (Serves 4): 

  • For the chicken: 4 chicken breasts, 2/3 bottle Savse Super Orange smoothie, 3cm piece ginger (grated), salt and pepper, oil for pan frying
  • For the salad: 4 grated carrots, 2 large handfuls bean sprouts, 2 thinly sliced red peppers, 1 thinly sliced red onion, large bunch coriander (chopped), small bunch parsley (chopped), 200g roughly chopped cashews, 1-2 red chillies (sliced), bunch spring onions (sliced)
  • For the dressing: remaining 1/3 Savse Super Orange smoothie, 3tbsp white wine vinegar, 2tbsp soy sauce, 1tbsp honey, juice 1 lime, 2 cloves garlic (crushed)



  1. Slice the chicken breasts into three large pieces and place in a shallow tray. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the smoothie and add the grated ginger. Cover and marinade for a minimum of 2 hours.
  2. For the salad, toss together the carrot, bean sprouts, red pepper, red onion, coriander, parsley, cashews, chillies and spring onions. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, whisk together the remaining smoothie, vinegar, soy, honey and lime juice.
  4. Heat some oil (olive oil, rape seed or coconut oil is good) in a frying pan, drain excess liquid from the chicken then fry quickly over a high heat until you achieve some golden colouring and the meat is cooked through.
  5. Dress the salad until thoroughly coated then pile onto a plate. Add the chicken and pour over any juices. Garnish with more cashews, coriander and chilli slices.


Chocolate Oreo Celebration Cake

Chocolate seems to be dominating my blog recently, so before I break from that theme to enter other territories I thought I would share my Oreo chocolate cake recipe. It’s made up of three chocolate fudge cake layers which are sandwiched between chocolate ganache, slathered in Oreo cookie frosting and topped with chocolate drips and Oreo cookies. Make it for your next special occasion and your guests will be forever grateful (if a little heavier…).


Ingredients (the quantities might sound like a lot- but this is a big old cake!):

  • For the cake: 400g plain flour, 450g caster sugar, 125g cocoa powder, 3tsp baking powder, 3tsp bicarbonate of soda, 4 eggs, 350ml milk, 225ml vegetable oil, large pinch salt, 300ml boiling water
  • For the ganache: 300g milk chocolate, 200ml double cream
  • For the Oreo frosting: 300g butter, 800g icing sugar, 3tbsp milk, 1 pack oreos (crushed into crumbs)
  • For the drips: 100g dark chocolate, 120ml double cream



  1. Preheat the oven to 180c then grease and line three 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Place your plain flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir briefly to combine.
  3. In a jug, mix together the eggs, milk and oil. Make a well in the bowl of dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk together until smooth, then measure out your boiling water. Add the boiling water in a few additions, carefully mixing to distribute it through the cake mix. It will be very runny, but this is what makes the cake so moist. Once smooth, pour the batter into the three cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool completely.


  1. While the cakes are cooling make the chocolate ganache. Finely chop the milk chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat the cream until nearly boiling then pour straight over the chopped chocolate and allow to melt. Stir until smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Now make the buttercream. Place the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk (using electric beaters) until pale and thick. Add the icing sugar in additions and keep beating until it becomes white, light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Now add the Oreo crumbs and milk. Whisk again to combine then adjust the consistency by adding a drop more milk if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Make the chocolate ganache for the drips now, to allow cooling/ thickening time. This ganache should be runnier than your filling you’ve already made.  As before, heat the cream and pour all over the chopped dark chocolate. Mix until smooth then set aside until it reaches a thick but still pourable consistency.
  4. Now it’s time to assemble your cake! Layer up the chocolate sponges with milk chocolate ganache (and a little Oreo frosting too, if you like!) then coat the whole cake in a thin layer of the Oreo frosting (a crumb coating). Chill for 10 minutes, then use the remaining frosting to create a thick outer layer. Smooth down with a palette knife and cake scraper. Chill again to firm the edges, then pour the runny dark chocolate ganache over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides.
  5. Now you can garnish with more Oreos and serve!

Chocolate and PB Quad Slice

This four layer slice is pure indulgence… brownie, cookie dough, peanut butter cheesecake and ganache topped with salted peanuts; totally over the top but SO good.



Chocolate Brownie Layer: 300g dark chocolate, 200g butter, 2tsp hot water mixed with 2tsp instant coffee, 2 eggs, 200g caster sugar, 75g self raising flour, pinch salt, 100g white chocolate chips

Cookie Dough Layer: 225g plain flour, pinch salt, 125g melted butter, 150g dark, brown soft sugar, 75g caster sugar, 1tsp vanilla, 1-3tbsp milk, 100g dark chocolate chips

PB Cheesecake Layer: 2 1/2 gelatine leaves, 150g ricotta, 100g smooth peanut butter, 90g golden syrup, 75ml milk

Chocolate and Nut Layer: 200g milk chocolate, 200ml double cream, 50g white chocolate, handful salted peanuts



  • Start off with the brownie layer. Preheat the oven to 170c (fan) and grease/line a 22x22cm brownie/traybake tin.
    Place the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt together above a pan of simmering water. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the coffee, eggs and sugar until well combined. Beat in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture until no streaks remain.
  • Fold in the self raising flour and salt then finally add the white chocolate chips. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The middle should be fudgy and moist.
  • While your brownie is cooking, make the cookie dough. Sift the plain flour and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl beat together the butter, vanilla, dark brown soft sugar and caster sugar.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed sugar mixture until a stiff dough is formed. Finally, add the chocolate chips and evenly distribute. Set aside.
    Your brownie should now be cooked- allow it to cool completely in the tin, then roll out your cookie dough to roughly the same size and lay across the top of it, stretching out the sides to fit the tin. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up, then transfer to the fridge while you make the cheesecake layer.
  • For the cheesecake layer, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water. Beat together the ricotta, peanut butter and golden syrup in a bowl until smooth.
  • Squeeze the water from the gelatine and place in a saucepan with the milk. Gently heat until the gelatine dissolves then cool. Once cool, stir into the peanut butter mixture and spread over the chilled brownie and cookie dough. Leave for 2 hours to set completely.
  • Once your cheesecake layer has set, make your chocolate ganache. Simply chop up your milk chocolate and place in a jug, then heat the cream. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir to combine, then allow to cool completely.
  • Spread the chocolate ganache over the cheesecake layer and sprinkle with chopped salted peanuts and melted white chocolate. Leave to set for 45 minutes in the fridge then slice with a hot knife and serve.


Willie’s Cacao: Cherry and Chocolate Choux Doughnuts

The final recipe in my chocolate experimentation series pairs Willie’s Cacao sweet Peruvian Chulucana with a homemade cherry and brandy compote, chocolate cream and crisp golden choux pastry- perfect for an afternoon tea or an evening treat. This chocolate has fruity sweet flavours so would also work well with raspberries, blackberries and dried fruit.



For the choux pastry: 3 eggs, 85g butter, 220ml water, 105g plain flour, pinch salt

For the cherry compote: double handful fresh cherries (chopped and de-stoned), 75g caster sugar, 2tbsp brandy

For the chocolate cream filling: 300ml double cream, 2tbsp cocoa powder, 2tbsp icing sugar

For the topping: 200g Peruvian Chulucana chocolate (or a good quality 70% dark chocolate), 50g good quality white chocolate



Start with the cherry filling. Place the cherries in a saucepan along with the caster sugar and brandy. Heat slowly for 10-15 minutes, or until the cherries release their juices and start thickening up to form a compote. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200c (fan). Very lightly grease a baking tray with butter.
Now make your choux pastry. Sieve the flour and salt three times to ensure no lumps are left, then pour it into the centre of a piece of greaseproof paper, ready for the next step.

Place the butter and water in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted. Do not let it boil during this stage or the water will evaporate too rapidly. Once melted, increase the temperature and bring to a rolling boil. Add the plain flour in one go and remove from the heat- now vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until it is well combined, shiny and comes away from the sides of the pan. Spoon this mixture into a bowl and leave to cool to body temperature.

Whisk the eggs together in a jug. Once your choux mix has cooled sufficiently, start adding your egg a little at a time, mixing with an electric whisk between each addition. You might not need all the egg- just stop when you achieve a smooth and glossy dropping consistency (where the mix falls off a wooden spoon after around 6 seconds).

When your choux is ready spoon it into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle. Pipe doughnut shapes onto your prepared baking tray, leaving space for expansion between each. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and well risen, then turn the heat down to 170c and remove your pastry from the oven. Insert a skewer into each doughnut to allow the steam to escape then bake for a further 5-10 minutes to dry out thoroughly. Once baked the choux should have firm sides and be a deep golden brown colour. Cool on a wire rack.


While the choux is cooling, melt your chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, then set aside to cool. Finally, take your cream and sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder, then whisk to soft peaks.

To assemble, slice the doughnuts in half horizontally and fill the lower half with some cherry compote followed by a ring of piped chocolate cream. Top with the other pastry half then carefully pour some melted dark chocolate over. Repeat with the other choux rings. Decorate with leftover cherries and melted or grated white chocolate, if you like.


Thanks to Willie’s Cacao for sending me their delicious chocolate and thanks to you for reading my chocolate based recipes this week. If you want to find out more about the company and the bean to bar philosophy, click here.

Willie’s Cacao: Individual Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cheesecakes

I promised more chocolate, so here is the recipe for my second ‘single estate’ experiment, made using a Willie’s Cacao 100% Venezuelan black chocolate block. As the name suggests, this is seriously intense stuff which carries some deep nutty flavours, so I have paired it with macadamia nuts and created a no-bake cheesecake with a smooth and silky texture; this is rich, decadent and best enjoyed with a coffee at the end of a dinner party or special meal.

cheesecake 2

INGREDIENTS (serves 12-16)

For the base: 70g butter (melted), 200g digestive biscuits, 100g macadamia nuts, 1tbsp caster sugar

For the filling: 150g melted Venezuelan black chocolate (0r a good quality 100% dark chocolate), 150ml double cream, 250g cream cheese, 180g caster sugar, pinch salt

For the praline topping: 100g macadamia nuts, 100g granulated sugar

cheesecake 1


Line a 18cm spring form tin with greaseproof paper.

Now start on the base- blitz together the digestive biscuits, nuts and caster sugar until they have achieved a fine breadcrumb consistency. Add the melted butter and blitz again until it comes together then pour into the prepared tin and smooth down, packing it tightly in with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to firm up while you make the filling.

To make the filling, whisk the cream to soft peaks then add the melted chocolate (it should be cool when added). Whisk again to combine then set aside.

In a separate bowl stir together the cream cheese, sugar and salt. Fold this into the chocolate and cream mixture until you have a smooth, streak free filling. Pile this chocolate filling onto the biscuit base and even it out with a spoon or spatula. Chill for at least 3 hours to set.

For the praline, place the sugar and 3tbsp water in a heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, turn up the heat and boil until it turns a deep golden colour, then add the nuts to coat in caramel and pour out on lightly oiled silicone paper. Leave to set solid.

Once the cheesecake has set slice into the shapes of your choice and sprinkle with macadamia praline. I like the rectangular slices and have decorated them with some chocolate shards.

cheesecake 3


Willie’s Cacao: Orange Blossom and Chocolate Melting Moments

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you may well have noticed that my recipes tend to be a little chocolate heavy (it is my vice- I can’t help it). With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to team up with quality chocolate makers Willie’s Cacao to create a few recipes using different ‘single estate’ bars. By doing this I want to show how different beans create different flavours in chocolate, which in turn taste best when paired with specific ingredients and foods- as with grapes in fine wines.

Willie Harcourt Cooze, founder of Willie’s Cacao, focuses on ‘single estate’ cacao; what this means is that each bar is made from beans grown in one very carefully selected location (whether that be Peru, Venezuela or Cuba etc), instead of beans of various origins going into the same chocolate. The company work in this way to highlight how growing beans in varying climates and soils result in contrasting flavoured bars.

Having experimented with three of their chocolates, I have created three recipes in which the taste of the specific cacao is (hopefully)  highlighted by my choice of flavour pairings. This experimentation has made me realise how important it is to do your research when it comes to chocolate (and any ingredients really), as these bakes have a great depth of flavour I have never achieved before with chocolate based baking.


My first recipe is for these orange blossom and chocolate melting moments. For these I used the Colombian Los Llanos single estate bar- it has fruity and floral notes so really works with the orange centre. They are made up of two buttery chocolate biscuits, a delicious chocolate ganache and an orange blossom and fresh zest buttercream.

INGREDIENTS (makes 8-10 sandwich biscuits)

For the biscuits: 175g soft butter, 60g icing sugar, 60g corn flour, 20g cocoa, 150g plain flour

For the ganache: 50g 70% Colombian Los Llanos chocolate (or another good quality dark chocolate), 50g double cream

For the orange blossom centre: zest 1 orange, 1tsp orange blossom extract, 65g soft butter, 150g icing sugar



Preheat the oven to 160c (fan) and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

For the biscuits, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift in the cornflour, cocoa and plain flour then very briefly mix until smooth and combined. The less handling the biscuits have, the more buttery and crumbly they will be.

Once the dough is combined, take 1tbsp pieces and roll into balls, then line onto the prepared trays (with a little space between each). When all the dough has been used, press down on the balls with the back of a fork to create the line pattern. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, bake for 10-12 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the fillings. For the ganache, grate the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until almost bubbling then pour over the chocolate. Leave to melt for a couple of minutes then stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

For the orange buttercream, beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy then add the zest and extract. Stir to combine.

Fill two piping bags- one with the ganache and the other with the buttercream.

Once the biscuits are cool pipe a ring of ganache around the outer edge then fill the centre with the orange buttercream. Place another biscuit on top to create a sandwich and repeat the process until all the biscuits have been used up.



I hope you like these biscuits and find cacao as interesting as I do. Look out for two more chocolate recipes this week and do give them a try, I’m really pleased with the results!

5 Minutes with Bake Off Champion Nadiya Hussain

Since winning the Great British Bake Off last year, mother of three Nadiya Hussain has ran with her mantra of ‘I can and I will’ by taking on numerous projects; from documentary making and recipe book writing to royal baking and countless television appearances, it seems Nadiya’s future in the food industry is bright. Last month, the reigning Bake Off champ kindly took 5 minutes out of her hectic schedule to chat food, the Queen and instant fame with myself and fellow food blogger Hannah Bond (A Bond Girl’s Food Diary  ) …right after she humoured us with some fan girl photos.

So, it’s been a year since Bake Off- what’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on since? It’s a tough one but I think I would have to choose baking the Queen’s 90th birthday cake- that’s a moment in history and I can’t believe I got to do it – I still have to pinch myself!

How did you manage to get that commission? I was on a shoot and my agent called and told me- I was sure she’d got it wrong- as if they’d want me and not a professional… when I realised it was true I was a bit like, can I say no?! Of course I didn’t but it was a lot of pressure at first- it’s a big deal!

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(Photo Credit: Telegraph Online)

You’ve spoken about struggling with confidence- do you think winning Bake Off helped you overcome that? Not the winning, but the process. Doing things I was unsure of or uncomfortable with on my own without my children or husband made me realise I don’t have to be a nervous or anxious person.

Were you prepared for the instant fame Bake Off gave you? No, I honestly thought I would fly under the radar and go back to normal life… being in the spotlight is a new world and it’s not something I have ever experienced- I try to just take it in my stride and enjoy it because you never know when it’s going to end.

Did Mary Berry give you any long lasting advice after Bake Off? She just told me to look after my family- she is such a family orientated person and I think we had that in common… she’s a bit like that Grandma you want to adopt!

Some less serious questions now… what is your desert island dish? Marmite! Marmite crisps.. I can eat six packets in one go.

Dream dinner party guest? David Attenborough. Every time.

Favourite cuisine? Vietnamese- it’s so fresh.

Two kitchen essentials? The perfect spatula and my stand mixer.

Mary or Paul? I’m not answering that!

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( Just fan-girling…)

Many thanks to Nadiya for chatting with us and sharing her thoughts on a very exciting year- look out for her BBC documentary series The Chronicles of Nadiya which traces her Bangladeshi roots and food heritage and pick up her book Nadiya’s Kitchen now.

Summer Prawn and Quinoa Salad

This salad is fresh, healthy and really flavoursome- it would make a great addition to a BBQ spread but is also satisfying enough to have as a light summer dinner. Give it a try, and if you’re not so keen on prawns why not serve it with rare steak or grilled halloumi instead?!


Ingredients (serves 4):

  • For the salad: 16 whole king prawns or 2 packs of uncooked peeled prepped prawns (your choice- I like using whole prawns for the visual impact and they are nicer to cook on the BBQ but either is fine) 400g red/white quinoa mix, 1 bunch mint, 1 bunch coriander, 1 red pepper, 1 ripe mango, 2 large double handfuls spinach, 200g feta, 1 red onion, 1 red chilli, 4 cloves garlic, 4 spring onions, 2 ripe avocados
  • For the dressing: 2tbsp white wine vinegar, juice 2 limes, juice 1 lemon, 1tbsp honey, a generous sprinkling sea salt, black pepper, 3tbsp olive oil


Finely chop the mint, coriander, red chilli and spring onions. Set aside.

Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions (these can vary depending on where you buy it and the brand). Once cooked fork through then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, set your oven to 200c and roast your red pepper and garlic cloves whole for 20 minutes- there is no need to chop them up at this stage.

Cut the mango into small pieces along with the avocado. Roughly chop the spinach into strips. Dice the red onion.

Once the red pepper and garlic are cooked, slice the pepper and squeeze the garlic pulp from the skins.

Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well.

Coat the prawns in the garlic, season and make sure your BBQ (or griddle pan) is piping hot. Cook until light char lines are achieved and the flesh has turned pink (there should be no translucent areas).

To assemble:

Mix the quinoa, herbs, chilli, roast pepper, mango, spinach, avocado, spring onions and red onion in a large bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss together. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pile onto plates and top with the garlic prawns and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese.

No Churn Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Two varieties of homemade chocolate chip cookie dough run through this vanilla custard ice cream, making it both delicious and dangerously addictive in equal measure. Try it at home (you don’t need a churner) and you are sure to be very popular- move aside Ben and Jerry!


For the cookie dough base: 140g plain flour, 80g very soft butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 50g caster sugar, few drops of milk

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Sift in all the flour except for 1tbsp (reserve this for later) and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. If too dry, add a little milk to bind (usually I would use eggs but because this dough isn’t baked I use milk instead).

Now split the dough into two bowls (it will look like a small quantity but it is enough!).

To finish the doughs you will need: 1 1/2tbsp cocoa powder, the reserved tbsp flour, 100g chopped white chocolate, 100g chopped dark chocolate 

To one bowl of dough add the white chocolate and the cocoa powder.

To the other bowl add the dark chocolate and the reserved flour. Beat both doughs to combine all the ingredients.

Roll the doughs into small balls (about a tbsp each) and place in the fridge to chill while  you make the vanilla custard ice cream base.


For the custard base you will need: 200ml double cream, 200ml whole milk, 1 vanilla pod, 140g caster sugar, 8 egg yolks

Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Put them in a heavy bottom pan along with the milk and double cream and heat until the edges start to simmer. Meanwhile, combine the yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Once the cream and milk have heated remove the vanilla pod and discard, then pour into the mixing bowl. Stir to combine the creamy mixture with the eggs and sugar then place in a clean heavy bottom pan.

Over a very gentle heat, stir this egg custard with a wooden spoon until it thickens enough to coat the back. Once it does this, remove from the heat and leave to cool with a layer of cling film over its surface (to prevent a skin from forming).

Once cooled put your thickened custard and chilled cookie balls into an ice cream tub and freeze overnight.

The following day, take your frozen ice cream and cut it into smallish pieces. Blitz in a magi-mix (or other food processor) until the ice crystals have broken down and it is smooth. You should be left with a creamy texture with little bits of cookie dough and chocolate running through it.

Return this mixture to the ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours until firm. Serve with crumbled cookies on top or just grab a spoon and eat it solo from the tub (definitely not what I did…).