March 2014

March 2014

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lemon, Parsnip & Hazelnut cake

Sometime last year two friends and I visited an emporium in Northampton called ‘A most marvelous place to shop’. It’s a shop that is almost too difficult to describe but is full of vintage and antique items, nearly new and lovingly made-by-hand bits and bobs which just cannot be found anywhere else. It is also the home of a super little cafĂ© and, of course, we just had to stop and linger over cappuccinos and cake. To my credit I resisted the temptation of having a slice all to myself but happily tried just a small forkful of a rather good-looking dark and mysterious chocolate cake. It was really scrumptious with an intense flavour and really moist. My friends and I pondered over the possible ingredients and, finally, I summoned up the courage to ask the coffee shop owner whether she had the recipe. She did actually mutter something like “If all my customers made their cakes at home, I wouldn’t have anyone coming in here” but she did turn on her heels and reached up to a shelf and handed me the cookbook. It turned out to be ‘Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache’ by Harry Eastwood and the cake itself ‘Heartache Chocolate Cake’ contained a very special secret ingredient – aubergines!

About the same time of year, Lynn Hill – founder of the Clandestine Cake Club – asked members to submit original recipes for possible inclusion in a cookbook she was planning and it got me thinking about using other types of vegetables which could be included in cakes to replace the unhealthy fat content.  So, after a bit of trial and error, I devised two cakes – Lemon, Parsnip & Hazelnut and Sweet Potato & Pecan – both of which I thought were worthy of submission. Time passed but, much to my amazement, many weeks later, I learned that both of my recipes had been chosen to be included. To say I was ‘pleased’ is a real understatement!

So, now several months later, on Valentine’s Day, the cookbook was published and I lovingly made both cakes for one of the many book launches being held at various Waterstone’s branches throughout the UK. The event in Abington Street, Northampton, was a huge success – at one time we had about 80 people gathered around us eating slices of cake with happy chatter playing alongside the ringing of the shop tills. Fellow members Carmela Hayes and Vanessa Kimbell were also recipe contributors and they joined me for the many obligatory photographs. 

Other members also kindly baked for the event and, as usual a variety of cake containers, boxes and plates were hidden under the display table. (Oh yes, before I forget to mention it, daughter Laura has advised me that Tesco has on offer at the moment a cake carrier – see photo - at a bargain price of £3.90!) We also had many friends and family who came along to support us. What a day!

(Further photos of the event can be seen shortly at

Lemon, Parsnip & Hazelnut - recipe

350g parsnips, peeled and grated (squeeze out any moisture)
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
250ml rapeseed oil
3 large eggs
85g roasted hazelnuts chopped plus 25g chopped to decorate
125g stem ginger chopped
250g self-raising flour
175g soft light brown sugar

125g butter (at room temperature)
250g full-fat cream cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
125g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190C fan 170C or gas mark 5. Grease and base line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
In a large bowl, combine the parsnips, lemon zest, oil, eggs, hazelnuts and stem ginger, then add flour and sugar. Mix well.
Spoon the mixture into the tins, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the butter until smooth, then add the cream cheese and lemon juice and mix until combined. Finally, sift in the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled sponges on a serving plate and spread a third of the frosting over the top. Place the other sponge on top, then use the remaining frosting to cover the top of the whole cake. Decorate with the extra chopped hazelnuts.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook

This week I have had a busy baking weekend and the resulting three cakes are in the freezer ready for icing in a couple of day’s time. One cake, a Lime and Coconut Drizzle Loaf, will be taken into BBC Radio Northampton when I go for an interview on Wednesday – is this, I wonder, called a ‘sweetener’?! All of the recipes used are taken from the new Clandestine Cake Club cookbook which is due to be launched next Thursday – 14th February.

Various Waterstone’s stores throughout the UK have kindly offered to host a book event for the Club and the other two cakes I have baked, using my own recipes in the book, will be taken to the branch in Abington Street, Northampton. Of course, it’s so exciting to see my recipes and name in print but above all it’s just great that the Club has proved to be so successful – what a wonderful testament to the founder Lynn Hill.

All our members have a variety of reasons for wanting to bake, meet and chat about all things cake related but, in my case, it has proved to be a spark of an interest that has grown into something special and I have been blessed to encounter some wonderful people along the way. The Club has introduced me to new ingredients, new styles of baking, new flavours and new friendships. All of this, and more, is bound up in the new Clandestine Club Cookbook.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weight Watchers quiche

I have tried this weekend to be a 'good' girl and have kept my baking to something savoury - in this instance a healthier quiche using filo pastry.

The result was quite nice - hubby had a second and third slice so it couldn't have been too bad!

8 sheets of raw filo pastry
calorie controlled cooking spray
1 small onion, trimmed and finely chopped
2 whole medium eggs
150ml skimmed milk
75g diced lean ham
40g cheese, grated
handful chopped parsley
pinch salt and pepper

Preheat oven to gas 4 or electric 180C/350F
Unroll filo. Mist each one with cooking spray and layer them in an 8 inch round flan tin or dish.

Mist a non-stick pan with cooking spray and saute onion until soft - about 4/5 mins.

Beat together eggs and milk. Stir in ham, chese, parsley, onion and seasoning. Pour into prepared pastry case.

Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until set. Cool slightly before serving.