Sicillian-style lemon amaretti

lemon_amarettiThese amaretti are halfway between the hard little amaretti you get with a coffee after dinner and a macaron. They are crisp at the edges and soft in the middle.

There’s a rich almond flavour as you’d expect but I have also spiked these with amaretto liqueur and lemon zest.

The ingredients and consistency are similar to some of the method for macarons, but the handling and baking are different. For instance, no having to create little ‘feet’.


If you don’t want to add the amaretto liqueur, add instead 1 teaspoon of a good vanilla extract (not essence) and 1 teaspoon of milk. This will avoid the alcohol but still give the right viscosity for the mix.

Tips for ensuring the amaretti – or other bakes – don’t stick:

  • If you have any rice paper this can be used
  • Lightly oil a scrunched-up paper kitchen towel, then rub this over the baking paper (so there is only a thin covering), followed by a sprinkling of flour

Makes about 25


  • Blender or food processor
  • Two large bowls
  • Balloon whisk, hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Baking tray, lined with baking parchment or a silicon mat (be warned: these are very sticky so you need good quality baking paper)
  • Piping bag and large round nozzle (optional)
  • Large metal spoon or spatula
  • Wire rack, spatula or fish slice


  • Ground almonds – 150g
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Plain flour (or rice flour to be gluten free) – 2  tablespoons
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Amaretto – 1 tablespoons
  • Egg whites – 2 large
  • Zest of a lemon (a lovely, large unwaxed Sicilian lemon if you can get hold of one)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 – 2 teaspoons)
  • Plus – a sprinkling of icing sugar


    Warm the oven to 150C fan / 170C conventional (this is unusually low for biscuits, but it is needed)

  1. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar for the meringue
  2. Put the almonds, (the remainder of the) caster sugar, salt and flour in the blender or food processor and pulse until very fine. This may seem excessive if you are starting with ground almonds, but it gives a much smoother surface that these amaretti call for
  3. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, adding in the tablespoon of caster sugar you put to one side at the end, and a quick squeeze of lemon. Then mix it all through
  4. Tip the ground-up, dry ingredients into a large bowl and take about a third of the meringue and fold it in. Use a small amount of meringue to start with to ‘loosen’ the mix and make it easier as a whole
  5. Take another third of the meringue and now more carefully fold the meringue into the mix. It’s best to use a large metal spoon, or failing that, a good flexible spatula and use a figure of eight movement. You’re aiming to keep ‘fluffiness’ from the meringue whilst mixing it all thoroughly. This is a balancing act and you will end up knocking quite a lot of air out but the trick is limiting this as much as possible and making sure there are no lumps of meringue or dry mix lurking. This is the same process for any mix that uses separately whipped egg whites, such as macarons, a Japonaise or Dacquoise, for example
  6. When it’s all incorporated fully up to now, add in the remaining meringue and add the amaretto (or the vanilla and milk) and the lemon zest and again swirl in
  7. If you want to, you can now transfer the mix to a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe rounds of the mix onto the prepared baking trays. Alternatively, you can just use a spoon to put rounds of mix on to the tray
  8. Place the tray(s) in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes
  9. The edges will start to go a golden colour when ready (don’t panic and think this is far too long for biscuits: because of the gentler-than-normal oven temperature these do need at least 25 minutes)
  10. Leave to cool a little in the tray (they will bend and squash if you remove too early) then transfer with a fish slice or spatula to a wire rack to fully cool

Candied citrus zest


Candied zest or peel can be made well in advance and is a great way to make the most of the zest from oranges used for eating or cooking that would otherwise be wasted.

It stores brilliantly too, as this is a traditional method of preservation.

Any citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, pomelo, satsumas, limes etc) can be used but lemon and orange are the two most common. Oranges and lemons, plus limes seem to keep their unique flavour when candied better as well. Use for garnishes and a sweet-sharp hit within bakes such as giving extra bite to a lemon drizzle cake.

The recipe can easily be multiplied if you want to make a large batch (for instance if you’ve juiced a lot of fruit).


I made this batch to garnish these little orange and pistachio cakes; a recipe from Claire Clark’s fabulous Indulge dessert book. I don’t think it’s right to write up a chef/cook’s recipe, possibly unless it’s one that they have made freely available online (and therefore I could reference the original and link to it to show its origination), so as this recipe is only in Claire’s book I can’t repeat it here.

I have seen a number of other bloggers that seem comfortable to write up a chef’s recipe verbatim and just name the chef (I have seen one quite popular blog which has posted nearly all the recipes out of a particular recipe book – effectively making buying the book almost pointless), but I don’t feel that should be done. I’m not sure how they get away with it either, especially when they’re a ‘repeat offender’.

If you want the recipe for these little gluten free cakes – and they are amazing – you’ll need to buy or borrow Indulge [a quick look online shows a second hand copy of the book can be bought for around £7 and new for about £13]. I’ve even seen it in my local library.


  • Saucepan
  • Very sharp chef’s knife (don’t use a short blade)
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Optional – tiny petit four cutters
  • Sieve
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Storage jar (needs to be spotlessly clean but doesn’t have to be sterilised)


  • Two oranges – use the best you can get hold of. Blood oranges or navels seem to have the nicest zest for my tastes. Alternatively use about 5 lemons or limes or one large grapefruit or pomelo.
  • Caster sugar – 250g plus extra for rolling the peel in


  1. Wash and dry the fruit
  2. Carefully remove the zest in long strips using the vegetable peeler – try not to get any of the white pith along with the zest. If you do, lay the zest flat on a worktop and carefully pare the pith off with a knife
  3. Once all the zest is off, use a very sharp knife to cut fine strips (about 1-2mm or 1/16″ in width)
  4. You can also cut out shapes such as hearts, stars and flowers if you have any tiny petit four cutters
  5. Discard the rough edge pieces only keeping the fine strips and shapes (if you’ve done shapes)
  6. Pop the zest pieces into the saucepan and add cold water to about 1 cm / 1/2″ in depth. Do not try to cut corners and use hot water – this will not prepare the zest properly
  7. Bring the water to the boil
  8. Discard the water over a sieve to catch the zest
  9. Return the zest to the saucepan and put in more cold water to the same height as before.
  10. You need to do this heating, boiling and discarding three times
  11. Now put 300ml of cold water in the saucepan and 250g of caster sugar. Stir (off heat) until the sugar is dissolved
  12. Pop the saucepan on the heat and add the zest
  13. Bring to a rolling boil – then let it boil gently for a couple of minutes
  14. Do not stir!! This will crystalise the sugar and you do not want this
  15. Reduce the heat to a tiny simmer and let it cook for about 30 – 45 minutes until the zest starts to look see-through
  16. If it is boiling away the liquid too quickly you can add some hot water (about 20ml at a time) VERY CAREFULLY to the saucepan. Again, don’t stir. (Don’t use cold water or it will spit profusely at you – and this is boiling sugar water so will burn you)
  17. When the zest is translucent, drain it from the sugar syrup (you can catch this in a bowl – it will cool and go toffee-like, and can be added as an additional flavouring dropped into other dishes)
  18. Lay out the zest on the baking parchment so that the pieces are separate and not clumped together
  19. Sprinkle over some caster sugar and roll the pieces in it to cover them
  20. Leave to cool and harden before use or storing


Lemon and poppy seed financiers

lemonPoppyFinanciers3SQUAREIf you’ve read some of my previous posts you know I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ about what precisely constitutes a financier… yes, it’s all a bit splitting hairs but if you want to use the ‘correct’ term rather than just labelling them as ‘small cakes’, then the shape and the name go hand in hand.

It seems common now to call any-shape small cake a financier. But, no – or should that be ‘non’!? The clue to the look of these little cakes is in their name – financiers. They should resemble gold ingots and they apparently originated in the bakeries near the Paris financial district, the patissiers making a not-very-difficult leap to selling bankers gold bar-shaped cakes as a marketing novelty.

If you fancy a bit more of an in-depth explanation (or an alternative financier recipe – please see my choc, nut and lime financiers).

I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the end what they look like (starts nervous eye twitch at the thought of being so blasé about nomenclature) – after all, the upshot is that you have something lovely to eat.


Makes 12

Beurre noisette (butter, warmed to nut-brown in a saucepan) is an essential part to the financier recipe. Very similar to madeleines.

These should be fluffy and light on the inside with a crisp-ish bite to the outside.

I always give my recipes in small amounts, so you may want to double up to make 24. The reasons I do this are twofold: firstly so the amount of sweet baked things we eat is a healthier ratio and secondly so that I can bake a greater number of things more often! (If there’s tons of one cake left, I have no need to bake something else).

No ingot-shaped moulds? Turn them into madeleines in those shell-shaped tins or bake them as friands in a bun tin or other oval/circular moulds.


  • Small saucepan
  • Bowl for the batter
  • Smaller bowl
  • Financier moulds or madeleine/bun tins
  • Lemon zest and juicer
  • Piping bag and large round nozzle
  • Pastry brush
  • Balloon whisk or mixer
  • Plastic spatula


  • Butter, unsalted – 100g  plus a little extra for greasing
  • Plain flour – 75g plus a tad extra for dusting
  • Icing sugar – 120g
  • Egg whites, from medium eggs – 4
  • Ground almonds – 25g
  • Lemon – zest and juice of one lemon
  • Poppy seeds – 1 dessert spoon full (about 10g)


  1. Firstly, prepare the moulds thoroughly: melt a little extra butter (not taken from the 100g needed for the cakes) and using your pastry brush, cover the insides of the moulds
  2. Pop the moulds in the freezer for five minutes, take out and brush them again with the butter
  3. Put them back in the freezer while you make the batter
  4. Turn on your oven to 170C fan / 180C conventional
  5. Put the butter in the saucepan over a medium heat – bring the butter up to melting and let it bubble until it browns in colour and just starts to foam (take it off quickly). This is beurre noisette
  6. Tip the beurre noisette into the smaller bowl to hasten the cooling
  7. Lightly whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar – you’re not after meringue – just enough until it starts to go opaque and fluffs up a little
  8. I normally don’t advocate sieving flour (it is usually not needed and a hangover from sieving our weevils!) However, it’s best to sieve for this just to make sure there are no lumps – it’s rare in modern milled flours but occasionally they can occur, especially if your bag of flour has been previous opened). So, sieve the flour into the bowl.
  9. Add in the ground almonds, the lemon zest and juice and the poppy seeds and fold in as best as possible
  10. Gently pour in the buerre noisette and fold until it is all thoroughly incorporated and there are no dry lumps of flour. You need to have a very smooth batter
  11. Bring the moulds out of the freezer and lightly dust with flour – set to one side to hand
  12. Fill the piping bag (with the nozzle in) with the batter and pipe into the moulds. You could spoon it in, but being quite an OCD cook I find this gives me more control on how the batter fills the moulds and is more consistent (that is, it produces financiers that are all pretty much the same)
  13. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes – you want them going just the tiniest bit golden brown round the edges and springy on top
  14. Leave them to cool in their little moulds, then they should ease out with no problems

Limoncello and lemon curd baked cheesecake

First an apology: life’s been hectic over the last few weeks (it’s been a hell of a start to the year). I’ve tried to fit baking in between the chaos as and when I can, but there has been little room for actually writing anything up. One good outcome is that I have a stash of new recipes to jot down, plus I’ve made some of my old favourites that I hadn’t previously written down before. Now I have some decent-enough photographs to accompany them, they’ll all find a place here over the coming months – this cheesecake recipe being the first of my older, trusted recipes to be written up.

This year I have a few goals linked to this blog. I intend to have a gallery page of my illustrations, drawing and paintings related to food and to combine my artwork with my recipes more, such as doing visual recipes or more infographics or including more craft makes. I also aim to add more family recipes, expanding it from my mainstay of baking – there are a few already. Although baking is my passion it does represent only a small portion of the cooking I do, so though it will never stop being primarily a baking and confectionery blog I’d like it to reflect how I cook and bake more, so that means a few more starters and main courses as well as desserts and tea-time treats. Lastly, I hope to step up a gear with the blog, possibly adding other food-related posts, reviews, more hints and tips and hopefully working towards making this more enriching (for myself and for anyone who stumbles across it).

I have included this cheesecake as it’s been an oversight not to have written it up earlier. This is one of the first recipes I ever devised – probably back as far as the late 90s (yikes). I’d estimate that I’ve made it twenty times or more in the intervening years since, but normally it gets scoffed far too fast to have taken any images of it. I hid it this time until I’d taken some photos and this is how we came to discover that  it actually improves with a day’s rest. It never lasted long enough before to discover that.

So, although it is lovely as soon as it is cooled, far better to restrain yourself from eating it until the day after baking, when it is truly divine. Even if I do say so myself.

I make my own lemon curd for this – please see my recipe for lemon curd to have a go at making your own. If you do, this should be made in advance of the cheesecake as it takes a good half a day at least to completely cool itself. Alternatively you can use shop bought lemon curd, but even the artisanal ones won’t be a patch on your freshly home made jar. This is a nice bake to do in stages if you have a special meal planned: for instance for a Saturday night dinner make the lemon curd midweek and the cheesecake on the Friday.

  • 23cm springform cake tin
  • Kitchen foil
  • Large bowl and a medium (heatproof) bowl
  • Food processor for crushing the biscuits (or you can just hammer them into submissions using a tea towel and a rolling pin!)
  • Spatulas
Ingredients – base
  • Digestive biscuits – 300g
  • Ground almonds – 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 100g
Ingredients – cheesecake
  • Cream cheese (such as Philadelphia) – 200g
  • Ricotta – 200g
  • Double cream – 200ml
  • Eggs, large – three
  • Limoncello – 4 tablespoons (I used Sette Vie limoncello)
  • Lemon zest – finely grated zest from one unwaxed large lemon
  • Lemon curd – about 5-6 teaspoons (to your taste)
Method – base
  1. Take the base off the springform tin and cut or rip off two pieces of kitchen foil slightly bigger than the base
  2. Lay these two sheets of foil one on top of the other and cover the base, smoothing it out and over the edges, making it tight. Don’t bunch it up at the edge/rim
  3. This little trick is to make the springform tin a little more water-tight and to replace the need for a baking sheet
  4. Clip the foil-covered base into the tin – it will be a bit harder than normal (you may need to push down any bunched-up areas) but it will ensure it fits more snugly
  5. Whizz up the digestives in your blender (or put them in a tea towel, making sure it is folded or twisted and bash with a rolling pin)
  6. Put the butter in the heatproof bowl and melt in a microwave
  7. When the butter is melted, tip in the digestive crumbs and the ground almonds and mix until the butter is incorporated throughout
  8. Tip into the springform tin and press down with the back of a spoon as evenly as possible
  9. Leave to one side
Method – cheesecake mix
  1. Turn your oven on to 160C fan / 170C conventional
  2. In a large bowl tip in all the ingredients except the lemon curd – there’s no need to faff about creaming one thing into another first. I followed that in the past and believe me it makes no difference to the outcome of the cheesecake
  3. Mix it all together; just make sure there are no large lumps of cream cheese or ricotta and that the eggs are mixed in thoroughly
  4. Tip the whole lot slowly into the tin and pop in the oven for 40 minutes
  5. After 40 minutes, take out the cheesecake and leave the oven door open (to help cool the oven more quickly). The cheesecake will be starting to firm up at the edges but still be very soft in the middle at this stage – this is perfect
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 120C fan  / 130C conventional
  7. Using a teaspoon, drop small blobs of the lemon curd on to the surface of the cheesecake – do not stir it in. Try to even it out across the cheesecake (so everybody gets some when they get a slice). Alternatively, I have sometimes warmed the lemon curd a little so it becomes slightly runny and then drizzled it across in large zigzags
  8. Put the cheesecake back into the oven for another 20 – 30 minutes
  9. Remove it when it looks like it has cooked through, but it still has a voluptuous wobble when you jiggle the tin
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a good couple of hours
  11. Make sure the tin is cool to the touch before you try to open the spring and remove the tin – if in doubt take a very sharp plain bladed knife and run just the very tip of the blade round the edge of the cheesecake (don’t put the whole knife down the side – you only want to break the join between the surface and the tin)
  12. Leave to cool further – at least another hour and definitely until the middle stops wobbling. As mentioned right at the start, it is best if you can leave it until the next day… “if  you can”.


Pistachio, lemon and strawberry friands

pistachio, strawberry and lemon friandsThese are richly moist little cakes, just perfect for an afternoon tea. The addition of crushed strawberries makes a nice contrast to the chopped pistachios and the lemon juice keeps them very moist.

Makes about 12

  • Silicon or metal friand moulds (alternatively these can be made as fairycakes or cupcakes – for which you will need paper cases and a bun tin)
  • Bowl
  • Balloon whisk, electric whisk or stand mixer
  • Lemon – the juice and zest of one small to medium lemon
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 120g
  • Caster sugar – 175g
  • Eggs, whole – 3
  • Plain flour – 120g
  • Baking powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped pistachios – 80g
  • Strawberries – 70g
  1. Grease and lightly flour the moulds or fill a bun tin with fairy cake cakes
  2. Put the oven on to 160C fan / 170C conventional
  3. Cream the butter and sugar
  4. Mix in the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the flour, to avoid splitting
  5. Add the rest of the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly
  6. Crush the strawberries with the back of a fork
  7. Add the crushed strawberries, the lemon juice, zest and 3/4 of the chopped pistachios
  8. Gently mix the added ingredients in with a spatula
  9. Sprinkle the remainder of the pistachios in the bottom of the friand moulds. If you are using fairycake cases, then you will need to put the pistachios on top of the mix after you have spooned it in
  10. Spoon in the mixture, trying as best possible to put an even amount in each friand cavity (if you are using cake cases, now sprinkle the remaining pistachios on top)
  11. Bake for about 20 – 22 minutes until nicely golden. You can check ‘doneness’ either with a skewer (an inserted skewer should come out clean with no mix on) or with the springback test – gently press your finger on one sponge, if it is done enough it will spring back to shape.
  12. Leave to cool and decorate with sliced strawberries

Alice in Wonderland Victorian fancies

victorianfondantfanciesandhanddrawnalicetagsThis was a little project I’ve been hatching for a while. It combines a bit of research into Victorian treats, a bit of illustration and drawing and some recipe reverse-engineering. It also marries an homage to Alice in Wonderland in its 150th birthday year (as I love the story and, in particular, John Tenniel’s original illustrations) to a ‘tea time treats’ challenge hosted by the Lavender & Lovage and HedgeComber blogs.

So, quite a list and suitably I’ve been working on it for some while (way before I stumbled on the Tea Time Treats challenge). One of the most tricky things for me on this project is that I don’t do ickle or dainty. I do try and make things look nice, but elaborate bakes are too time consuming to be an option for me as a working mum. My baking hobby has to get squeezed in between my normal day job and the rest of the chores. Plus, when I get time to bake patisserie is my go-to choice, not decoration. So, all in all, out of my comfort zone somewhat.

Tea Time TreatsTea time treats

This little project seemed to fit nicely with the June Tea Time Treats challenge run by the Lavender & Lovage and The Hedgecombers blogs (Karen Burns Booth and Jane Sarchet respectively) which calls for small cakes. I’ve not participated before.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said

Because there are quite a few instructions just for the fondant fancies, I have not included either the recipe for the lemon and cucumber G&T in this post, else it would be a really long read:

Eat me

Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865, just four years after Mrs Beeton’s The Book of Household Management, so this should have proved a rich contemporary reference source for an appropriate recipe. I had already decided that I’d like a lemon sponge and read through Mme Beeton’s book and tried her recipe for lemon cake. Frankly, it was awful – doughy and oddly flavoured (the amount of orange flower water was a bit overkill). Many of her recipes have stood the test of time, but this one got fed to the blackbirds.

So, I went back to a more typical sponge ratio and concentrated on looking at construction and flavours from the contemporary period. I picked out an apricot jam filling and a marzipan covering, held in place by a layer of buttercream. I researched some contemporary food illustrations and settled on striped piping. To link to the Alice theme, I modelled some mini roses (white and then half painted in red, to mimic the book), a top hat or two and a Cheshire Cat to top off the cakes along with the pink pralines.

Drink me

The little cakes would definitely be the ‘eat me’ so I decided to have a ‘drink me’ item too and matched a G&T to the lemon flavour of the sponge with limoncello and lemon verbena. I also added a slice of cucumber, to evoke cucumber sandwiches in a British tea party – it was really lovely. The recipe is here.

Alice in Wonderland food tagsI’ve had such a curious dream

To link to Alice and give me an excuse to do a bit of drawing I drew up some eat me and drink me food tags. I was enjoying myself so much I ended up doing a few more…


  • 20cm x 20cm cake tin, greased and lined
  • Bowls
  • Palette knives: a small cranked handle one and a ‘normal’ large one
  • Rolling pin
  • Sharp knife
  • Piping bag with fine plain nozzle
  • Two circular tall biscuit cutters one about 5cm in diameter, the other about 6cm (just ensure that one cutter is quite a bit bigger than the other, as it will be used to cut the marzipan for the top of the fondants)
  • Whisk

Ingredients for the sponge

  • Caster sugar – 175g
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 175g
  • Plain flour – 175g
  • Eggs, medium – 3
  • Lemon – the zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1/2 teaspoon

Ingredients for the buttercream

  • Unsalted butter, softened – 200g
  • Icing sugar – 200g
  • Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon

Additional ingredients

  • 2 x 200g packs of coloured marzipan
  • Royal icing (make up from icing sugar and a little added water and egg white and some food colouring) or buy in
  • Apricot jam – you’ll need about half of a typical sized jar
  • Decorations for the top of the fondant fancies – you don’t have to make your own as I did – or you can leave plain

Method – sponge

  1. Turn the oven on to 150C fan / 160C conventional
  2. Cream the sugar and butter together, then combine all the other ingredients
  3. Smooth into the prepared cake tin
  4. Bake at the bottom of the oven for about 40 minutes – test with a skewer to see if it’s done; the skewer should come out clean
  5. Leave to cool in the tin and then remove onto a cutting board
  6. Using the smaller biscuit cutter, press out 16 rounds from the cakePress out 16 cake rounds from the sponge
  7. Cut each of the sponge rounds in half with a bread knife
  8. Spread the apricot jam onto the bottom half of each of the mini sponges and then sandwich the two back together
  9. Pop all 16 of the mini cakes in the freezer for an hour, as this will make the next steps much easier

Method – buttercream

  1. Prepare the buttercream while the cakes are in the freezer
  2. Gently stir the icing sugar into the softened butter to incorporate it without creating a cloud of icing dust
  3. Add the lemon juice and adjust the consistency with a little water or more icing sugar as you see fit
  4. Once incorporated roughly, you can then whisk it for about 3 minutes (the longer you whisk the smoother and fluffier the buttercream)
  5. Take the cakes out of the freezer and paste the buttercream onto the sides and the top, making a small dome on the top of the cake, to round it off
  6. buttercreamSmooth it a little, but don’t worry too much – it is getting covered in marzipan
  7. Leave the cakes while you prepare the marzipan and the royal icing
  8. Method – placing the marzipan
  9. Each of the marzipan packs will cover eight of the cakes pretty much exactly
  10. Roll out one of the marzipan packs very thinly. It needs to be thin for two reasons – you don’t want an overwhelming taste of marzipan drowning out the lemon of the sponge and it also ensures you have enough to cover all the cakes
  11. Measure the height of the cakes with a strip of paper – and cut a long strip out of the marzipan with its width matching this height. This strips will wrap around the sides of a cake.
  12. Make sure the strip is a little longer than the diameter of the cake (if you want to really check, use a piece of string to measure the cake diameter and then lie it down along the marzipan).
  13. Cut a round out of the marzipan using the larger cutter
  14. Trim the end of the strip of marzipan to have a straight edge
  15. Put this straightened end on to one of the cakes and press the marzipan strip all around, wrapping the sides of the cake
  16. Overlap the rough end over the original straight end and take a sharp knife and trim the excess so that it fits exactly
  17. Smooth the edges of the marzipan strip together a little with the back of a spoon or the edge of a knife
  18. Place the round you cut out on top, and again smooth the edges down to try to hide them a little
  19. Repeat for all the cakes, including swapping to the second marzipan pack, so that you eventually have 16 fondant fancies, with eight in each colour

Method – piping

  1. Make up your royal icing and add some food colouring. As I had both pink and blue marzipan, I chose to use a single colour for the piping – purple, as it would go nicely with both. They would look lovely, though, with a combination of two or three complimentary colours if you really wanted to take it even further
  2. Using a fine circular nozzle, start from the top centre of one of the cakes and draw out a line of piping slowly and slightly away from the cake
  3. Fig 1.
    Fig 1.

    To get as straight a line as possible, you need to not pipe directly on to the marzipan but pull the icing out and over the cake in one continuous stream and let it fall down one side to the bottom – almost as if you were using a piece of string – like in fig 1.

  4. Once you have one line done, start from the top again and pipe three more lines in turn, making a cross over the cake (effectively marking the cake into quarter pieces)
  5. Fig 2.
    Fig 2.

    Eventually you need to have twelve lines piped equally spaced apart around the cake – making those first four quarters just makes it more easy to do it evenly. I’d suggest you do it in order as in Fig 2, but however you think best to get twelve lines

  6. Repeat for all twelve cakes
  7. Use a large palette knife slid under each cake to move them, if you need to while the icing dries
  8. If you are using a decorative topper, such as pink pralines or modelled roses, Cheshire Cats and top hats, pipe a small blob of the royal icing in the middle at the top of the cake and push the topper gently into it

 “…go on till you come to the end: then stop.”


Walnut cake with lemon buttercream

This is an amazingly bouncy walnut sponge topped with a lemon buttercream – this is a change to the traditional coffee and walnut combination but goes beautifully together.

Walnut and lemon buttercream cake



For this recipe I’ve used a mix of unsalted butter and baking margarine. I did some experimenting comparing all butter, all margarine and a mix of both on a creaming method sponge mix and I liked the combination for certain cakes. Previously I’d never baked using margarine; always butter only.

Butter has the best mouth feel and taste but can leave a sponge slightly greasy if the temperature isn’t perfect and it’s over-warmed before use, margarine gives a cake rise a lighter texture but the taste isn’t quite so good. Combining the two has given me a good almalgamation of the positives of both for this recipe – however, I didn’t use 50:50, I used a little more butter to margarine. Of course, for specialist patisserie sponges like joconde and the like, only butter can be used and if you’re after very natural ingredients, then butter wins hands down. I have only used Stork so I don’t know if other brands offer different qualities (better or worse).

If you only want to use either butter or margarine, just use 175g of the one ingredient.

A note about pans – this cake can be made in either two 20cm round pans or one 30 x 15-ish loaf pan. The cooking temps and times are slightly different for these but I’ll detail these in the method below


  • Two 20 cm round pans or one 30 x 13 cm (or whatever you have near this) loaf pan
  • Whisk or mixer
  • Bowls
  • Spatula

Ingredients – cake

  • Eggs, medium – 3
  • Caster sugar – 175g
  • Self-raising flour – 175g
  • Margarine – 75g
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 100g
  • Baking powder  – 1 1/2 tspns (7.5ml)
  • Double cream – 25 ml
  • Vanilla extract – 1/2 tspn
  • Almond extract – 1/2 tspn
  • Walnuts – finely chopped – 60g

Ingredients – lemon buttercream

Please note – this is enough for the loaf cake:

  • Butter, softened – 70g
  • Icing sugar – 170g (thereabouts – add in batches and make to your own liking of density)
  • Cream or milk – about 10ml
  • Lemon juice – juice of one lemon or about 2 tblspns if you’re using it from a bottle
  • Extra walnuts for decoration – about 10 (choose the nicest looking ones)

For two cakes (provides a little extra to sandwich in the middle):

  • Butter, softened – 100g
  • Icing sugar – 250g (thereabouts – add in batches and make to your own liking of density)
  • Cream or milk – about 15ml
  • Lemon juice – juice of one lemon or about 2 tblspns if you’re using it from a bottle – this weirdly seems to provide the same taste, even though the other ingredients are greater. Just test it and add a bit more lemon juice if you prefer
  • Extra walnuts for decoration – about 10 (choose the nicest looking ones)

Method – cake

  1. Grease and line the tins – whatever you are using
  2. Preheat to oven to 170C for two round tins or 160C for the large single tin
  3. Cream the butter, margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy
  4. Add in all the other ingredients except the walnuts and mix briefly until all the flour is combined
  5. Mix in the chopped walnuts carefully with a spoon
  6. Dollop the mix into your tins and smooth the top
  7. Pop in the oven – for two tins bake for about 25-30 mins, for one tin bake for about 40-45 mins

One baked, leave to cool in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely before you ice it

Method – buttercream

  1. Mix all the ingredients together (can I suggest you lightly mix it all together with a spoon first before you start whisking, so you don’t get a cloud of icing sugar!)
  2. Whisk for about 4-5 mins so you get a really creamy mix


  1. When the cake is fully cooled, spread the icing on the cake and ‘lift’ the spatula/knife up all over the top to create a wispy finish
  2. Decorate with the remaining whole walnuts