When we were away last week, sometimes in Berkshire and sometimes in Oxfordshire, it was my mother’s birthday. We did feel a little guilty at leaving her at such a special time, but it was the first opportunity this year for us to steal time away with the children. It was half term week and not one of them had another commitment; the eldest went skiing during the Easter break in April; my younger daughter has had a couple of practice runs for her bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award; and February half term was just too chilly to contemplate a holiday. Mum understood, I think. She did ask if there was room in the car though; I think she was joking! We have a five seater car and with my two, my wonderful partner, his son and me that makes five and the car was full. So, to compensate for our absence, my daughters decided to make grandma a birthday cake. After a little discussion we all agreed that grandma’s favourite cake, the one that she nearly always orders when we take her for morning coffee, is coffee and walnut cake, and that it would be wonderful if the girls created their own variation, with a little help from me, of course. This was the moment when grandma’s cappuccino and walnut cake was born – two coffee and walnut sponges sandwiched together and topped with a creamy butter icing, then finished with a dusting of chocolate powder; just as you would expect to find your hot cappuccino.

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My daughters used and you will need:

  • 2 x 19cm (7.5″) round sandwich cake tins (or very similar), base lined with baking paper
  • 200g (7oz) butter
  • 85g (3oz) caster sugar
  • 85g (3oz) light soft brown sugar
  • 200 (7oz) self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 50ml (2fl.oz) coffee essence or 3tbsp strong black coffee (espresso would do nicely)
  • 25ml (1fl.oz) milk
  • 50g (2oz) chopped walnuts (plus approx. 25g (1oz) extra for decorating)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4 

Put all the ingredients, except the nuts, into a large mixing bowl and with an electric mixer cream together for a few minutes (approx. 3), until thoroughly blended. Stir the 50g of chopped walnuts into the cake mixture. (If preferred, this can all be done by hand by beating the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then adding the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Once thoroughly mixed add all the other ingredients and fold through.)  Divide this between the two tins and put them into the oven for approximately 25 minutes. A skewer, when inserted into the cakes, should return dry and the cakes should be spongy to the touch. After 5 minutes turn the cakes out of the tins and cool on a wire rack. In the meantime the filling and topping can be prepared as follows.

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For the creamy butter icing:

  • 340g (12oz) icing sugar
  • 150g (5oz) butter, softened
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • the walnuts saved back from earlier
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder

In a large bowl beat the butter and icing sugar together until blended, then add the vanilla essence and cream and combine. (The latter two ingredients can be added earlier if the butter and icing are not blending well.) When the mixture is creamy and the cakes have cooled, sandwich the cakes together with two thirds of the vanilla butter cream. Spread the remaining third of the butter icing over the top of the sandwiched cake. Scatter over the reserved chopped walnuts and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve in slices on its own or with a little pouring cream.

Grandma loves a hot cappuccino and she confirmed that she enjoyed it all the more with a slice of her special birthday cappuccino and walnut cake. Happy birthday to grandma x

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The girls were a little camera shy when making grandma’s cake this time around. It was a very different story a few years ago when they giggled their way through baking a surprise for grandma. There is always a laugh to be enjoyed when girls get together in the kitchen. Actually, if I am truthful, there have been some tears too; when too much baking powder was put into the brownie mixture and it exploded in the oven, when the Victoria sponge was flat as a pancake because not enough baking powder was added, and when the biscuits burnt because they were forgotten about when in the oven. But that is life in the kitchen – a surprise every time!

Diane, India and Clementine x



The sun makes most of us feel cheerful and I am no exception. I woke to the warmth of the early morning sun bursting through the bedroom window a couple of days ago and I just had to race outside to capture some of its glory; just in case it was a brief visit. I found the plants starting to flourish in the garden and birds singing from the tree tops. I started to think of flimsy summer dresses, straw hats and my daughters heading down to the beach with their friends like a gaggle of excited geese. But, we are not quite there yet; even though I did put on my lime-coloured cotton dress and starlet sunglasses; unfortunately, teamed with sensible boots, rather than bare feet, to cut through the dewy spring grass. I strolled through the garden and circumnavigated the much larger front lawns and orchard; those very same fields that will soon be bustling with visitors. We open up our large front garden to summertime camping; when the usual chaos of family life bubbles more fervently with joyous chatter, children giggles and rustling of canvas; oh, and we must not forget the glorious smells of smouldering barbeques and sounds of sizzling sausages. And this brings me to the matter of food; but not merely that of fuel, that of pleasure; cheesecake pleasure. Pure indulgence with a hint of summer on the way.

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To enjoy this simple but tasty treat, you will need:

  • 20cm (8inch) round loose bottomed cake tin, buttered and base lined
  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 125g (4.5oz) digestive (or other plain) biscuits, digestives do work well though
  • 150g (5oz) white chocolate
  • 350ml (12 fluid oz) double cream
  • 450g (1lb) cream cheese
  • 100g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g (5oz) raspberries or other soft berry fruit

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To begin, chop the butter into chunks and place in a small glass or ceramic bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave for approximately 20-30 seconds until almost runny. (Alternatively, the butter can be melted over a saucepan of warm water). Meanwhile, crush the biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs. This can be done in a food processor, but I prefer to do it manually, by placing the biscuits in a large food bag and rolling over and over them with a rolling pin, until all are crushed. The kids love doing this one.

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Then, add the biscuits to the butter, mix together thoroughly and tip into the prepared tin. Flatten down with the back of a spoon and pop this into a fridge to harden and cool.

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In the meantime, break the chocolate into its pieces and place in a glass bowl. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water as the chocolate will burn and turn grainy. A smooth cream consistency is required. Set aside to cool slightly.

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Whilst the chocolate is resting, place the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence into a bowl and stir to slightly mix; fully blended is not required here.

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Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl and whisk until just starting to thicken; it will hold its shape if pulled by the whisk. Tip the cream cheese mixture into the cream and whisk again, or simply stir through, until well blended this time. Add the chocolate and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

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Wash the raspberries and allow to drain.

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Remove the tin from the fridge and scatter the drained raspberries over the biscuit base. You can increase or decrease the quantity of fruit to taste.

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Spoon over the cheesecake mixture and smooth the surface to level. Place the cheesecake, still in the tin, back into the fridge to cool for at least one hour. Almost there!Food 055

When ready to serve remove the cheesecake from the tin by easing a knife around the edge of the dessert to loosen and push the base upwards. Slide carefully onto a serving plate or board.

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Dust with icing sugar or sprinkle over white chocolate flakes to decorate if so desired. This cheesecake is good enough to serve on its own, but for extra richness it can be accompanied by pouring cream, soft berry coulis (puree) or a scattering of soft berries; or all three options, as I do sometimes, for a truly delightful experience!

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This is a treat to be enjoyed inside or out; on your own, with the kids or with a gathering of friends.

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It can be packed in a tin and transported for picnics; or served at home for afternoon tea, an after school snack or dressed up on fine china for a special dinner date.

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Sometimes, for a sweeter alternative and for longer keeping (even though having to keep it very rarely happens),  I abandon the fresh fruit altogether and place the filling directly onto the base. And when I am ready to serve, I top it with a high fruit jam or preserve; the children love strawberry or blackcurrant, I prefer cherry, but it could be tried with apricot or marmalade too! If topped with marmalade I wonder if it could be categorised as a breakfast staple?

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Easily makes 10 tasty portions.

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And the only things left to do; are wash up and ponder at the artistic creation before you!

I say artistic because this cheesecake reminds me of summer and the richly coloured in the park paintings created by French post-impressionist artist Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859- 1891). His most famous picnic interpretation being that of ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, 1884-86. He used the method of applying tiny dots of rich coloured pigment to the 3 metre wide canvas, to be optically blended by the observer; this method is known as chromoluminarism and pointillism.


And I imagine ruminating by a pond; a pond celebrated as much as those painted by the French impressionist artist, Claude Monet (1840-1926). I would have my blanket spread across the grass whilst savouring the delicateness of raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, washed down with a delicately floral Muscat dessert wine. I have my own acrylic on canvas interpretation of water lilies; but I am not sure if it matches up to that of Monet’s? I never intended to paint lilies in water, but the colour that was evolving on the canvas was so reminiscent of the those much adored Monet  creations, that the content could be no other.



Art and cooking are not so different really, both are created to be viewed, relished and remembered. x



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I could not resist sharing the pictures of her delicious bakes with you, but and unfortunately, I cannot share the recipe with you. Clementine used a cookery book found buried amongst a pile of books in a stored box and to there it returned, before I was able to record its author. I do have my own muffin recipe though and I will share it with you very soon. I admit to not having made them for a while, so, I do feel that I should make a batch first to ensure that the recipe is as good as I remember. In the meantime, I do hope that you enjoy admiring Clementine’s efforts.

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During the making process an abstract art form was created with the olive oil and sugar combination. When they were baking the blueberries bubbled through the golden batter creating a wonderful marble design. Not only are blueberries packed full of nutritional benefits, but they are pretty colourful too!

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I can never resist turning something simple like a plate of Clementine’s blueberry muffin bake into a colourful picture. However they were for eating and eat we did. Delicious when still warm and unadorned or dressed up with cream or ice cream; great with yogurt too, so my youngest informs me. My eldest quite enjoyed hers with custard. Muffins fit well into a snack box, picnic hamper and the palm of your hand, so, they can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.

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A big plate of blueberry muffins made by Clementine for sharing and a recipe will be shared with you here, soon. x



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I believe them to be the gooiest, moreish, most decadent brownies ever, that are equally as delicious warm or cold and dressed with whatever accessory you like!

Chocolate brownies originated in the late nineteenth century and that of American invention. They join the list of other great delights, such as maple syrup pancakes, cookies, doughnuts, pumpkin pie and bagels, to have crossed the Atlantic and into our hearts, as well as the waistline. Where ever you go, a café, a restaurant, a hotel, a baker’s, a friend’s house or popping round to the family, brownies are frequently on the menu and frequently chosen from the list. They are a mix between a cake and a cookie and can be more like one or the other depending on the recipe you use. Sometimes they are rich and truffle-like, sometimes warm and squidgy as a dessert and sometimes dressed up more like a soft cookie and great to enjoy with a good cup of tea or coffee. Brownies can be a simple, plain chocolate indulgent or crunchy with added nuts, sweet when packed with fruit, chewy with marshmallows and a chocolate dream when laden with chocolate chips.

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My recipe happened by accident when I did not have all the usual ingredients for my old brownie recipe, but I still had a daughter with her friends wanting to enjoy a summer’s evening by the river indulging themselves in chocolate heaven. The store cupboard was duly raided and armed with what I could find my new and better brownie recipe evolved. Sometimes the best things in life happen by accident and this one certainly did. So, I will not keep you waiting any longer and here follows what I believe to be the best ever chocolate brownies. You will need:

  • a greased and lined 17x27cm (7x11inches) rectangular baking tin, the baking paper should extend the rim by 2cm
  • 75g (3oz) dark chocolate with at least 70% chocolate solids
  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 3 large eggs
  •  250g (8oz) golden caster sugar
  • 100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
  • 75g (3oz) plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4.

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First you need to break the chocolate into small pieces and chop the butter into small chunks and place all into a heat proof glass bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water or allow the water to boil as the chocolate will burn and become bitter and grainy.

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Whilst the chocolate and butter are gently melting put all the other ingredients, that is the sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder, into a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended and a smooth batter has formed. You can do this by hand with the usual creaming method of firstly whisking the sugar and eggs together with a wooden spoon until creamy and then folding in the dry ingredients to make a soft batter.

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By this time the butter and chocolate should have melted. Stir these together to make a smooth chocolate sauce. Pour this into the batter.

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Stir thoroughly until a smooth chocolate batter is formed and the marble effect disappears. At this point if you wish you could add a handful of toasted chopped nuts, cherries, cranberries, crystallised orange peel, chocolate chips, desiccated coconut or marshmallows. A little more about this at the end of the recipe.

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Pour the chocolate batter into your pre-prepared lined baking tin and put it into the middle of the oven for 30-40minutes. This will vary slightly depending on how squidgy or cakey you prefer your brownies. After 30minutes remove from the oven and the brownie should resist slightly when the surface is pushed with your finger. You can also use the skewer test which after being inserted should not be coated in soft batter. The mixture will have risen during the baking, but will sink soon after removing from the oven; this is as it should be.

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Leave in the tin to cool. When cooled remove from the tin by grabbing the paper from each side and pulling up. Place onto a clean surface and cut to the desired size and shape, that being either into squares, rectangles or triangles. Do not worry too much about the presentation though as they will not last long enough for anyone to notice! This recipe should make approximately 24 portions. All that is left, is to eat!

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I like my brownies slightly warm with pouring cream, ice cream, clotted cream or whipped cream flavoured with Baileys Irish Cream or Amaretto. If the cake has cooled just pop it into the microwave for about 20 seconds to loosen the consistency, turning from cake to pudding. Brownies are equally as delightful cold with afternoon tea, elevenses break, in the lunch box or a sneaky anytime snack. My eldest daughter even likes hers with warm custard, when they morph into a rich chocolate pudding. They are a delicious accompaniment to fruit especially with kirsch soaked fresh cherries and a dollop of luxury vanilla ice cream. The possibilities are endless and as I write I keep thinking of different ways that the simple brownie could be served.

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You will find that one tray bake will not be enough and I often double up the quantities and make two trays; one plain and the other with the addition of: toasted nuts (chopped and toasted in the oven at 180°C for 5-8mins), dried cranberries or glace cherries, fresh cherries or raspberries soaked in a little liqueur of your choice to flavour; or to delight the kids, a few chocolate chips or marshmallows, the latter making for an even chewier and gooier treat. You can add as much or as little extras as you like, but usually I find a handful adequate. I had a coconut brownie once; it was delightful, but I have yet to try this in my recipe, maybe soon I will be sharing this one with you. But for now I will grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy my mornings bake!

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I hope that you enjoy your most indulgent chocolate brownie ever, as much as I do!

Diane X


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I have not yet come across anyone who does not like this cake, quite a statement but it is true.It is a bake that can be presented for many occasions; an afternoon treat for when the kids come home from school, a birthday surprise for someone special, a great dessert with a dollop of cream for a wonderful dinner party finale, or out in the garden for summer tea with a scoop or two of ice cream. The longer it is baked the more cakey it becomes; accordingly the less it is baked the more torte like it becomes and will subsequently create a well in which the cream can puddle. And what is the trick that makes it so moreish? The boiling of the orange.

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To make this scrumptious cake you will need:

  • a greased and lined 20cm (8in.) cake tin, preferably loose bottomed or springform
  • 1 large orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
  • 120g (4oz) ground almonds
  • 150g (5oz) self raising flour
  • 1/2 level tsp baking powder
  • 100g (3.5oz) milk chocolate (dark if you prefer a richer flavour)
  • 50g (2oz) flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4.

Put the whole orange, that is right, every bit of the orange goes into a saucepan and is covered with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least one hour. It should be very soft when a knife is inserted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cooled cut in half and remove any pips and place all, peel, pith and flesh of the orange into a blender or food processor and whiz to make a smooth puree.

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Now, or you could do this whilst the orange is cooling, place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes with an electric mixer. Next fold in the almonds, flour and baking powder, followed by the orange puree. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The cake should  be springy to the touch and a skewer, when inserted, should come out clean. Leave in slightly longer for the bake to be more like a cake. In this instance it will have visibly risen more and be firmer to the touch and the skewer will come out dry.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Whilst the cake cools break the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of gently simmering water until the chocolate has melted. Spread the flaked almonds on a baking tray and pop under a grill until lightly golden, or darker if you prefer a more toasty flavour.

Once the cake has cooled remove carefully from the tin and place onto a serving plate, drizzle over the cake to make your desired pattern and scatter the flaked almonds over to set into the chocolate as it hardens.

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You can either serve this immediately, in which case the chocolate will be softer and more like a sauce, in fact you could serve it with a chocolate sauce rather than coat the cake with chocolate and then scatter the almonds over the top and serve with ice cream, or allow the chocolate to set for eating later, unless the temptation is too great and it is devoured in the meantime!

But, if you do need to keep it, it keeps very well in a cake tin for up to a week. It can be kept in the fridge for longer and freezes very well, just remember to thaw it thoroughly before consuming.

Easily serves 10.

cakes 010All you have to do now is find a knife, a cake fork or spoon and add whatever you like: clotted cream, whipped cream, pouring cream, a Cointreau or Amaretto flavoured cream, crème fraiche, Greek yoghurt, vanilla or chocolate ice cream or even custard

Tuck in! x