Oct 16, 2012

A new home

Hey everyone! If you haven't noticed there hasn't been any activity on this blog in aaaages! The main reason for this is that I have a new blog up and running and it's covering everything including the cooking side of things. We are all more than just what we eat and so it's a general home/lifestyle blog (with lots of yummy recipes of course). I've transferred everything from here onto the new blog but I will leave this blog up just in case you have bookmarked any of the pages. It's been a fun time with you all and I really hope to see you over on Finding Home.

Thanks for all the clicky-love over the years, you guys are awesome!

Sorcha xxx

Jul 23, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Box Cake

I was asked to make a birthday cake for a lovely local chef. Now, that's a pretty tall order! The brief for the cake was that they wanted chocolate, cherries, and it was to be decadent. Oh, and gluten-free to boot. The original design I wanted to do I couldn't get everything I needed for (chocolate cigarillos are much harder to find at short notice than you would think!). So this is cake mark 2, hope you all like it! :)

One final thing: this is not a cake for the faint-hearted. If you're baking for the first time I recommend starting with something a little simpler, there's a lot going on here so you need to be fairly confident about throwing the cake layers together as 99% of your attention will be on the chocolate sheets and the cherries. By all means have a go but don't be dis-heartened if it doesn't turn out the way you want/expect it to - we all need to walk before we can run!

Chocolate Cherry Box Cake

(for the chocolate layers)

225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
175g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder

(for the cherry layers)
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
175g self-raising flour
1 can pitted cherries, drained and chopped
Red food paste

To decorate
500ml double cream
500g dark chocolate
200g white chocolate
800g fresh cherries
Cup of brandy
1 can pitted cherries, drained and chopped
3 tbsp cherry jam
Red ribbon
Edible Glue

1. Rinse and dry your fresh cherries. Tie knots in the stems. Put them in a large deep tray in a single layer and  pour over the cup of brandy. Cover and leave to infuse.

2. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 4x8 inch square baking tins.

3. Cream together the butter and sugar for the chocolate layers until light and fluffy. Added the eggs one at a time (with a tbsp of the flour to prevent the mixture curdling) into the mixture.

4. Sift half the flour and cocoa into the bowl and fold it in with a metal spoon (metal spoons are best for folding as they have thinner edges and are less likely to knock air out). Sift in the rest of the flour and cocoa and fold this through as well.

5.  Divide the mixture between two of your tins and smooth it down with a palette knife/back of a spoon. Bake for 20-25 mins (until an inserted skewer comes out clean).

6. Allow to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

7. Whilst your chocolate layers are baking you can start coating your cherries. You'll need 49 chocolate coated cherries for this but I'd do a good few more in case there's a few ugly ones (and so you can eat the leftovers too!). Drain your brandied cherries (keeping about 2 or 3tbsp of the brandy for later) and allow them to dry fully. Melt your white chocolate in a glass bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't actually touch the water). Once your chocolate is melted dip one side of each cherry into it (you need to work fast before the chocolate starts to set again). Arrange them on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and pop in the fridge to set.

8. Now, onto the cherry cake layers. Again, cream together your butter and sugar as before. Add your eggs one at a time again and sift in the flour as before as well. Fold in the flour, then fold in the cherries. Add the red food paste a little at a time and continue folding until you have a colour you're happy with.

9. Divide the mixture between two tins again and level off. Bake at the same temperature for 20-25 mins until  an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tin and then turn out onto wire rack to cool fully.

10. Whilst your cakes are cooking you can start on the chocolate sheets for the edges. Melt 400g of your dark chocolate in the same way you melted the white chocolate. Remove from the heat as soon as it is cool. Ideally you should temper the chocolate but I didn't have a marble slab to hand so this is what I did:- leave the chocolate in a bowl until it's about 38C. Whilst it cools cover your kitchen table with LOTS of clingfilm. Pour out the cooled chocolate onto the clingfilm and smooth out into a large square/rectangle with a cake smoother (you want it quite thin so smear to your hearts content!). Leave the chocolate to set (this will take HOURS).

11. Chop your other can of pitted cherries and mix with the cherry jam and reserved brandy. Cover and leave in the fridge until you need it. Melt your final 100g of dark chocolate and dip the other side of your chocolate coated cherries. Put back on their tray and refrigerate until needed.

12. Just as the chocolate was firming (but not set) I covered it with greaseproof paper and went to bed. Had copious nightmares about said cake and then got up at 7:30am on my DAY OFF to finish it. I would not recommend this part of my technique!

13. Once your cakes are cooled and the chocolate is set you can start the assembly. First, whip your double cream until you have very stiff peaks. Take your cake board. Put a layer of red cherry cake down first. Cover this in a layer of whipped cream and then one third of the cherry-brandy jam. Add one of your chocolate layers, cream, one third cherry-brandy jam etc, finishing on a chocolate layer. Cover cake in clingfilm. Invert square baking tin over the top of the cake and weigh down with a really heavy book and some cans (you want to compress the layers together at this point).

14. Whilst the cake compresses slice your chocolate sheets into 4 long rectangles about a half inch higher than your cake.

15. Uncover cake and crumbcoat with whipped cream. Add a slightly thicker layer to the edges. Line up a chocolate sheet to one side. It should stick to the cream for you. Using a solid board behind the chocolate that sticks out the sides, and a sharp knife on the front side, cut off the excess chocolate (this is a very delicate process and a pain in the ass). Repeat on all sides of the cake.

16. Pipe the rest of your whipped cream onto the top of the chocolate cake box and level. Add 7 rows of 7 chocolate dipped cherries to the top. Stick one end of your ribbon to the middle of the chocolate with edible glue. Pull it (gently) round the box, gluing at intervals, until you reach the end which you also glue in place.

So there you have it. One fancy-pants birthday cake which will disturb your sleep and make your kitchen look like Willy Wonka exploded in it. Totally worth the effort though, it does look pretty awesome.

May 14, 2012

Curried Chicken & Mango Salad

I came across this recipe in the May 2012 issue of Good Food magazine and I just couldn't wait to try it. Mango! Curry! Chicken! Sesame seeds! All things I love, love, love to eat and it was everything it promised to be - light and delicious, spicy and exotically flavour-some. Don't just take my word for it though - give it a go and try it for yourself!

Serves: 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a starter.


6 chicken mini fillets
1tsp olive oil
2tsp curry powder (I used a hot curry powder)
4tbsp natural yoghurt
2tbsp mango chutney
zest and juice of half a lime
1 Little Gem lettuce (I actually used Cos as that's what the shop had), leaves separated
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
half a red onion, finely sliced
2tsp toasted sesame seeds

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6 and line a baking tray with tinfoil. Toss the chicken fillets in the oil and 1tsp of the curry powder, making sure that they're evenly coated. Place on the baking tray and bake for 20 mins or until cooked through. Allow to cool slightly and then slice.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the curry powder in a bowl with the yoghurt, chutney and lime zest and juice.
  3. To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on your plates. Top with the sliced mango and chicken. Scatter over the red onion slices, drizzle with the dressing and then scatter with the sesame seeds.
  4. Enjoy!


Since I use it so much in my baking I suppose I should give you all some simple variations that you can use again and again!

Let's start with the basic buttercream mix:
225g unsalted butter, softened
1tbsp milk
350g icing sugar
Beat it all together until smooth. Simples!
However, it just takes the smallest of steps to turn this oh-so-easy icing into something more!

Citrus buttercream - replace the milk with the same quantity of orange, lemon or lime juice and maybe some finely grated zest too if you'd like.
Chocolate buttercream - replace 55g of the icing sugar with 55g cocoa.
Coffee buttercream - replace the milk with the same quantity of strong cold espresso and a quarter teaspoon of coffee extract.
Nut buttercream - Reduce butter to 175g then add a quarter teaspoon vanilla extract, 55g smooth peanut butter and 100g chopped nuts of your choice.
Raspberry/Strawberry buttercream - replace the milk with the same quantity of raspberry/strawberry coulis and stir 75g chopped raspberry/strawberry through the finished icing.
Bailey's buttercream - replace the milk with the same quantity of Bailey's.
Mocha buttercream - replace 55g of the icing sugar with 55g cocoa and replace the milk with the same quantity of strong cold espresso.
Orange-choc buttercream - Replace 55g of the icing sugar with 55g cocoa. Replace the milk with the same quantity of orange juice and add either a quarter tsp of orange extract or a good pinch of finely grated zest.

As you can see the only thing that limits you with buttercream is your imagination! Let me know if there are any "must-try" combinations that you swear by that I haven't listed here!

Clíona's Amazing Chocolate-Caramel Christening Cake

Hello everyone! I've been a busy little bee the last few weeks - a new job and lots of life-stuff going on. My little niece-to-be had her chistening ceremony recently and her Mum asked me to make a cake I'd made before that she'd really liked. Well - say no more!
I won't lie...2 days went into the decorating of the cake (well, I do have to work too!) but the basic cake itself is very simple and even a novice cook should be able to knock this one out in an evening. The decorating is slightly trickier but there's nothing stopping you from giving it a bash, after all, this is my first attempt of doing anything like this myself.

A word of warning: this is RICH cake. Tiny slices. Seriously. You'll thank me later.

Makes a very tall 8" cake - approx. 12-16 slices

For the Vanilla & Chocolate sponges
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
3 eggs
150ml natural yoghurt
1tsp vanilla extract
5tbsp cocoa powder
For the Caramel & Choc-caramel sponges
225g unsalted butter, softened
175g soft light brown sugar
50g dark brown sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
3 eggs
150ml natural yoghurt
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp cocoa
To assemble and decorate
1 can Carnation Caramel
1 quantity chocolate buttercream

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. grease and line the bases of 2 x 8 inch (20cm) sandwich tins with baking paper. 
  2. For the vanilla and chocolate sponges mix all the ingredients, apart from the cocoa,  together with an electric whisk. Transfer half the mix into another clean mixing bowl and whisk in the cocoa. Scrape the mixes into the tins and bake for 20-25 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  3. Repeat this for the caramel and choc-caramel sponges, again reserving the cocoa until you've split the mix between two bowls and whisking it into one batch. Bake as before.
  4. Allow the 4 sponges to cool fully on a wire rack.
  5. Place the vanilla sponge on a base (or plate) of your choice. Spread a third of the caramel over the base sponge and top with the caramel sponge. Spread another third of the caramel over this and top with the choc-caramel sponge. Spread the final third of the caramel over the choc-caramel sponge and top with the chocolate sponge.
  6. Cover the cake in chocolate buttercream and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  7. Remove from fridge at least 15 mins before serving.
  8. Relax, enjoy, and watch everyone marvel when you cut into the cake and they see the colour graduations of the sponges!

Mar 23, 2012

Earl Grey Tealoaf

I used to hate things like this, didn't like fruit in cakes and buns at all. In fact, hard as it may be to believe but I used not like baked goods at all. Yes, I was MUCH skinnier back then! I didn't know what I was missing out on though, and once I started to change recipes to suit what I do like then I discovered that actually, fruity cakes aren't that bad at all. So here's my take on the humble tea loaf...made a bit fancier with posh tea and a variety of fruits.

Makes 1 loaf

350g mixture of sultanas, dried apricots and dried dates plus the zest of one lemon
140g dark muscovado sugar 
300ml hot black tea made with 2 earl grey teabags
300g self-raising flour
1 large egg

1. Put the fruit and sugar in a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Stir well, then cover and leave to soak overnight (I actually leave it for 2-3 days).

2. To cook, heat oven to 150C/gas mark 2 and lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin and line with a wide strip of baking parchment (helps lift it out when it's done).

3. Stir the flour and egg into the fruit mixture, turn into the tin and level the surface. Bake for about an hour and a half until well risen and a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

4. Cool for a few mins in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool fully.

Gorgeous on it's own, spread with butter, toasted, or if you're feeling really bad fried with butter and golden syrup! Can be frozen too if you're making it ahead of a party or something, just wrap it in tinfoil and allow to thaw at room temperature.

Sticky Ginger Cupcakes

Well, buns really. They were meant to be cupcakes but I had no muffin cases left so I made them in bun cases instead. I LOVE ginger. LOVE it. Ginger bread, ginger in stir-frys, ginger beer, ginger biscuits. It's up there with lemon as one of my favourite flavourings so it will come as no surprise to you all that these buns did not last long in our kitchen...or that the leftover icing was eaten from the mixing bowl with a spoon...

Sticky Gingerbread Buns
(makes about 16 buns, less if using muffin cases for proper cupcakes)
Cake mix
115g plain flour
2tsp ground ginger
three-quarter tsp ground cinnamon
1 piece stem ginger, finely chopped
three-quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda
4tbsp milk
85 butter, softened
70g soft dark brown sugar
2tbsp black treacle
2 eggs, lightly beaten

85g butter, softened
175g icing sugar
2tbsp syrup from the stem ginger
1 piece stem ginger, finely sliced, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Line bun tins with paper cases (or muffin tins with muffin cases).

2. Sift the flour, ground ginger and cinnamon together into a bowl. Add the chopped ginger and toss in the flour mixture until it is well coated. Place the bicarbonate of soda and milk in another small bowl and stir to dissolve. 

3. Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the treacle, then gradually mix in the eggs. beat in the flour mix, then gradually add the milk mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases.

4. Bake in the oven for 20 mins, or until well risen and golden brown. Allow to cool for 2 mins in the trays before removing to a wire rack and allowing to cool fully.

5. To make the icing put the butter in a bowl and beat until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and syrup and beat together until smooth and creamy. Spread the icing on top of each 
completely cold bun, then decorate with pieces of the stem ginger.

(You can turn these into gingernut buns by adding 40g finely chopped walnuts or pecans to the mix and then sprinkling with a few chopped nuts when iced).

Frosted Yoghurt Orange Cake

I found this recipe in GoodFood's 2012 calendar (it's the January recipe). GoodFood do this calender every January issue and it is month upon month of delicious recipes and gorgeous food photography. As is their entire magazine every month actually. Go on, go out and buy a copy. I'll wait...

Anyway, this is a great post-Christmas treat (she says in the middle of March). It's tangy and not too sweet so ideal for the post-chocolate period when we've all eaten far too much. It's also dead handy to throw together if you're expecting people at short notice - almost everyone has a jar of marmalade and some yoghurt hiding in their fridge.

175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus extra for greasing)
225g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 oranges
3 large eggs
150g pot of natural yoghurt

250g tub mascarpone
85g icing sugar
3 tbsp fine shred marmalade

1. Heat oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease a 1kg loaf tin, then line with a strip of parchment.

2. Mix the flour, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl.

3. Beat the eggs, melted butter and yoghurt together in a jug. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Tip the batter into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for 50mins-1 hour (until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean). Cool in the tin.

5. To make the frosting beat the mascarpone, icing sugar and marmalade together with a spoon until well mixed. Remove the COLD cake from the tin and strip off lining paper. Spread the top with the frosting and pop in the fridge to chill. Return to room temp before eating. Enjoy!

Another Apology

Yes, again...
As always I've been very neglectful of my blogging duties - this blog hasn't been updated since June LAST YEAR - apologies to anyone who starved whilst awaiting further recipes...

Anyway. I have been busy (and further to my last post the whole dieting thing died a death!). We've moved house - TWICE! I started college. I left college. We got engaged. My brother emigrated. We welcomed new babies into our extended circle of family and friends. I turned 30 (I know, I know, I'm really very old now aren't I?). Lots of other minor bit and pieces have happened that don't spring to mind now (and others that do but I'd rather keep to myself, I'm sure you understand).

So hello again to all. I am hoping that 2012 will be a more productive year for me, both in the kitchen and outside of it. Let me know if there's any recipes you'd like to see here and I'll do my best to accommodate you.