Tag Archives: celebration

100 Followers and counting – thank you everyone for your support and encouragement!

Yesterday evening was a great moment as my 100th follower signed up and I would like to say a huge thank you for everyone’s support and encouragement.  I have been thinking about what recipe I would post if I did get 100 followers and it dawned on me that the perfect recipe to share is the one we use as a family when we celebrate.  It is our ‘go to’ birthday cake – Chocolate Smartie Cake.

Coincidentally, it is my youngest brother’s birthday.  He turns 25 today, so it felt quite apt when I baked the cake this morning.  There is one slight problem – the cake is in France and my brother is London.  So Little Man – Happy Birthday!  We shall be thinking of you when we eat it later this afternoon.

I don’t know anyone who has tried this cake and not enjoyed it.  Before I get a swathe of comments from my brothers – the traditional family cake normally has chocolate fudge icing in the middle and on the top, so, if you choose to do this just double the quantities for that icing.  I personally prefer it with a buttercream filling in the middle and find that a mocha icing cuts through the sweetness of the cake.


Chocolate Smartie Cake


For the Cake:

  • 200g soft margarine
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3-4 drops vanilla essence
  • 2tbsp milk

Mocha buttercream for the filling:

  • 35g soft margarine
  • 35g butter
  • 1tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp boiling water
  • 1-2tbsp milk
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100-125g icing sugar

Chocolate Fudge Icing:

  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 175-200g icing sugar


1. Preheat your oven to 170C fan and line a 20cm deep cake tin.

2.  Cream together the butter and sugar.

3.  Slowly add in the eggs being careful that they don’t curdle (if in doubt add a little flour at this stage to stabilise your mixture).

4.  Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa then stir well before adding the vanilla essence and milk and then beat the mixture together for a couple of minutes.

6.  Pour the cake batter into the cake tin.

7.  Place in oven and bake for about 30/45 mins (or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean).  (Note: I tend to turn the oven down to 160C fan after about 30 minutes to stop the cake browning too much on top.)


8.  Remove from oven, place the cake on cooling rack and leave until completely cold.

9.  Whilst the cake is cooling make your mocha filling.  Place the butter, soft margarine and coffee in a bowl and beat together.  Sift in the cocoa and icing sugar using an electric whisk, beat the icing together, adding a little milk if needed to loosen the icing.


10.  Once the cake is cool, cut it in half as carefully as you can.  Spoon the mocha filling on the bottom half of the cake. Using a knife evenly spread out the icing, placing the other half of the cake on top once you are happy.

11. Then make the chocolate fudge icing, by melting the chocolate and butter in a bowl above a pan of simmering water.  Once everything has melted, add the beaten egg to the chocolate mixture and stir vigorously (The mixture should start to thicken).  Leave the mix to cool a little before sieving in the icing sugar and stirring the mix until all is combined.


12.  Spoon the icing onto the top of the cake a little at a time and using a knife smooth the icing evenly over and down the sides of the cake.

13. Finally decorate with the smarties.

In preparation for Christmas – making and feeding the Christmas cake

This year I have actually got my act together and made my Christmas cake well in advance of Christmas.  I am trying to be very diligent and feed the cake weekly with a local alcohol called Vin de Noix (Walnut Wine) so that the cake is beautifully moist when I eventually cut into it on Christmas Day.

We in fact make the Vin de Noix each year in mid-June using a combination of green walnuts, eau de vie, red wine, sugar, orange and spices.  The resulting drink is quite delicious and smells like Christmas pudding.  I used it last year to soak the fruit in for my Christmas cake and then used it to feed the cake in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The resultant taste was superb.  However, I appreciate that Vin de Noix is not something that everyone can readily lay their hands on, so I would advise you to use whatever you have to hand for example Sherry, Madeira, Brandy or Whisky.

I have in fact made two Christmas cakes this year, one for my grandmother and one for me.  The cakes are not the same as I used what I could find in the store cupboards of each house, so, as an example my grandmother’s cake was made using white sugar which meant her cake was a golden brown colour after cooking.  By contrast I used dark brown sugar in my cake and so I have a cake that is a deep brown colour as you would expect of a rich fruit cake.  The one thing I ensured about both cakes was they were packed full of dried fruit, essential for any Christmas cake.

So for now, both the cakes are wrapped up tightly in tin foil and have been stored away in some old air-tight sweet tins, keeping them fresh between their weekly feeds.  They will remain this way until they are iced in the week before Christmas.  (See icing the Christmas cake).


My Christmas Cake


  • 1 wine glass Vin de Noix (or ½ wine glass Brandy, Madeira, Sherry or Whisky)
  • 18oz dried mixed fruit
  • 6oz raisins
  • 6oz currants
  • 6oz sultanas
  • 1½oz mixed peel
  •  4oz glacé cherries
  • 4½oz plain flour
  • 4½oz self-raising flour
  •  1tsp salt
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 6oz butter (or hard margarine)
  • 6oz dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp black treacle
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2oz hazelnuts
  • 2oz chopped walnuts


1. Place the dried fruit, raisins, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries, mixed peel and Vin de Noix in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for as long as possible (12hrs minimum, the longer you leave it the better the cake will be).

2. When your fruit is ready make your cake batter.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, then slowly add the eggs being careful that they don’t curdle (if in doubt add a little flour at this stage to stabilise your mixture).

4. Add the flour, spices, salt, zest and treacle to the mix and combine using a large metal spoon.

5. Finally add the nuts and the fruit to the batter and stir well making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed through the batter.

6.  Line a 20cm loose bottomed deep cake tin with baking paper.  Do this by:

  • Cutting out 4 circles the size of the tin, 2 of these will be for the bottom and the other two will be for the top of the cake.  Cut a 1” cross in the centre of the two circles to be used for the top of the cake.
  • Cut a long piece of baking paper big enough to go around the outside of the tin, fold it in half lengthways.   On one edge make a crease (roughly an 1”) then make cuts every inch up to the crease (this will allow the paper to fit far better into the tin).

  • Place the long piece of baking paper in the tin first, so that the cuts in the paper lie smoothly on the bottom of the tin.  Fill the cake tin with the batter, push it down gently, then place the two circles of the baking paper with the cross over the batter.
  • Finally, take a large piece of brown parcel paper, fold it in half lengthways and wrap it around the outside of the tin, tying it in place with a piece of string.

7.  Place the cake in the oven and cook at 150C fan for 3 -3 ½ hours (or until a skewer comes out clean).

8.  Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely, before feeding with 1tbsp of Vin de Noix, then wrap tightly in tin foil and place in an airtight container.

9.  Continue to feed the cake once a week with 1 tbsp of Vin de Noix up until it is iced.