Sunday, 30 August 2009

Traditional Plain Gingerbread

I was going to call this recipe 'old-fashioned' gingerbread, until I read this post about molasses cookies on Let Her Bake Cake! Anyhoo, it's the old-fashioned cakey sort of gingerbread that is better after a day or two in storage, when it begins to develop a sticky top surface.

I've been using this recipe since around 1974 - that's when the recipe book (Cakes and Cake Decorating, by Zoe Leigh, published by Octopus Books) was published and it was the year I got married, so it's a fairly safe assumption to make. All I've done to it over the years is to convert it to metric weights and increase the amount of ground ginger used. It's a particularly easy cake to make - it doesn't need an electric mixer or any precise techniques - just melt, mix and bake!


120g butter - cut into 6-8 large cubes
60g dark muscovado sugar
120g black treacle or molasses
120g golden syrup - see note about syrups
120mls milk (I use semi-skimmed)
2 large eggs
240g plain (all purpose) flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
3 level teaspoons ground ginger

Note - you can vary the proportions of the treacle and golden syrup, providing the total weight is 240g. The more treacle you use the darker and more bitter the cake will be. I often use 60g golden syrup and 180g treacle.


Pre-heat the oven to 160C, Fan oven 140C, Gas 3. Line a 20cm (8") deep square cake tin with baking parchment (or prepare as you prefer). I use a Silverwood adaptable tin for this cake - it rises to around 5cm high during baking.

Put the butter, sugar and both syrups into a saucepan, and heat gently, stirring until the butter is melted and the sugar disssolved in the syrup.

Remove from the heat and add the milk. If necessary, allow to cool to blood heat (you don't want to scramble the eggs).

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir briskly until just combined - do not beat.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 - 60 minutes until a probe tests clean.

Cool in the baking tin. Store in an airtight container when completely cold, and try to wait at least one day before eating! I usually cut this into 12 pieces.

The picture below was taken 48 hours after baking, when the surface is glowing with gorgeous stickiness!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Musing on Muffins

I DON'T do muffins. I CAN do muffins, but almost every recipe I try is greeted with the cry "They're OK, but I prefer the muffins you buy". Is it any wonder I don't bother with them?*

I don't know what makes the difference. Are shop-bought muffins really just large cupcakes, and technically not a muffin at all? Is it the emulsifiers and humectants and so on which make commercial muffins light and airy but claggy in the mouth, or a different type of recipe? Do I put in too many chocolate chips, or too much fruit, and make them too rich? Is my son addicted to artificial chemicals and flavourings?

However, muffins are useful. There are inevitably days when even a dedicated cake maker can't find the time or energy to cook, even when there's no cake in the house; that's when I buy muffins. 'Cake' is still available, and in a form not to be sneered at as inferior to what is usually provided.

* the one noble, and definitely notable, exception to this pattern are Dan Lepard's Chocolate Custard Muffins which must be declared the best chocolate muffins in the world, as my son thinks they are better than shop-bought muffins.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Another Baking Session with Rhubarb

I'm not sure whether to call this a pie or a cake; the dough used for the case is more like a scone or shortcake than pastry; perhaps I should call it a shortcake pie!

I was looking for a way of incorporating some roasted rhubarb into a dessert, but didn't want to make a pie using shortcrust pastry, or a crumble, as I prefer to use raw rhubarb for those.

While looking for suitable recipes I saw one based on a Nigel Slater recipe,
on this blog, for a cake using polenta, with a layer of cooked rhubarb in the middle. The cake looked exactly what I needed, but I didn't want to use polenta again, after last week's cake. I remembered a fresh fruit cake, in my repertoire, which I had never tried with rhubarb because of the amount of juices produced when rhubarb is cooked. Using Nigel's technique of raising a lip around the edge of the dough base should be perfect for containing any juices.


150g butter
150g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
300g SR flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1 orange

Enough cooked rhubarb to fill the cake - sorry this is vague, but I was just took what I needed from a bowl of already cooked fruit. If starting from scratch I guess you'd need at least 400g, perhaps a bit more, but the recipe is fairly flexible.

To 'roast' the rhubarb: cut the stems into 5cm lengths, lay in a single layer in a shallow non-metallic ovenproof dish, sprinkle with caster sugar - about a tablespoon per 100g or more if you have a really sweet tooth - then bake at 180C, Fan oven 160C, Gas 4 until the tip of a knife passes easily through the thickest piece of fruit. This takes roughly 20 minutes. Put the fruit in a sieve over a bowl to drain off any juice which has collected. Cool before making the cake.

To make the pie: Preheat the oven to 180C, Fan oven 160C, Gas 4, and grease and base-line a 20cm springform cake tin. Baking parchment is best, or a circle of re-usable silicon sheeting.

Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the hob.

Mix in the sugar and beaten egg, then stir in the flour, cinnamon and orange zest.

Put 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread into an even layer with your fingers, working the soft dough a couple of centimetres up the side of the tin to make a shallow wall.

Put in the fruit, packing it as closely as you can, but trying to keep a level surface and not bringing it higher than the wall of dough.

Pinch small pieces off the rest of the dough and scatter them over the surface of the fruit. Make sure to put some pieces touching the top of the wall of dough in the tin. You won't have enough to cover the fruit completely, but it will spread in baking.

Bake for 60 minutes, until risen and golden, covering the cake if it browns too quickly.

Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack before taking off the springform sides. Serve at room temperature; lightly dust with icing sugar before serving.

My OH thought this was a pie, and complimented me on the quality of the pastry! Shows what he knows! As a perfectionist, I wished I'd packed in more fruit, and the topping might have been better with some rolled oats or chopped nuts worked in to give a contrasting texture, but otherwise I don't have too many criticisms of this. I was particularly pleased that the already cooked rhubarb had retained it's shape and texture - I had been worried that it would be just a mush in the centre.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A Batch of Brownies

Just to keep the cake tin filled! This is my favourite recipe for plain chocolate brownies; I posted the recipe earlier in the month. These were made more rich and gorgeous than usual by using chocolate with 85% cocoa solids - my local branch of Tesco has just started selling this at a very reasonable price, in it's cookery ingredients section.

I need a better camera (or camera operator) for close-up pictures, too.

I'm ashamed to admit that this batch was ever so slightly overcooked, too high in the oven, which meant the the top became papery and flaky. Tasted wonderful though!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Rhubarb and Blackberry Cornmeal Cake

So, after spending all Saturday afternoon making a curry, on Sunday afternoon it was back to baking.

I was torn by indecision - my rhubarb is still growing strongly, but I'd also picked some more blackberries on Sunday morning and it seemed a shame to freeze them all. Whichever I used, the weather was too warm to want a hot dessert, so crumbles and pies were out. The only solution was to try them together in a fresh fruit cake.

I'd already earmarked Nigella Lawson's recipe for Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake (from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess') to try, so this seemed like a good opportunity. I wasn't sure about using cinnamon which I'd seen in some online recipes (I don't have the book, so don't know if Nigella uses it or if it's crept in while being moved around the internet) with either the rhubarb or the blackberries, and one review of the recipe found the flavour overwhelmed that of the fruit, so I decided to reduce both the flour and polenta by 25g each and add 50g ground almonds, leaving out the cinnamon completely.


250g blackberries
250g rhubarb, sliced in 1cm slices
300g caster sugar
125g butter, at room temperature
125g plain flour
130g fine cornmeal (I used instant polenta)
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g natural yogurt (mine was low fat)


Pre-heat oven to 180C, 160C fan, Gas 4. Grease a 23cm springform tin, and base-line with baking parchment.

Put the fruit into a glass bowl and sprinkle with 100g of the caster sugar. Don't leave for more than 30 minutes, or too much liquid will be drawn out of the fruit.

Mix the flour, cornmeal, ground almonds and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.

In a large bowl cream the butter and remaining 200g of caster sugar, until well mixed. As there is more sugar than butter, it won't get as light and fluffy as when making a sponge cake.

Add the vanilla extract, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour mix with each egg.

Using a metal spoon, fold in the rest of the dry ingredients, alternately with portions of the yogurt. Don't overmix at this stage, mix until the ingredients are just blended.

Finally, fold in the fruit, with the sugar and any juice which has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl.

Put the cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 1 hour, covering after 40 minutes if it's getting too brown. A test probe should be clean of any wet cake batter, but note that if the probe goes through a piece of fruit, it may still appear wet.

Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing the sides of the tin.

Although an electric mixer makes this cake easier, I think it could easily be made with just a spoon, as long as the butter is really soft, as the creaming stage isn't as important as for lighter cakes.

The finished cake was a little disappointing; there wasn't much wrong with the flavour and texture, but I didn't like the way all the fruit had sunk to the bottom. This isn't a huge problem, especially if the cake is being used as a dessert, but it does spoil the appearance a little. I haven't notice other reviewers complain about this, so I wonder if using low fat yogurt has made a difference? As for the flavour, the almonds weren't really noticeable and maybe a little spice or other flavouring would have been a good addition - certainly if I try the cake again, with a single fruit, I will add some appropriate flavouring.
Using the two fruits together wasn't perhaps my best idea either. Neither flavour predominated, but it was hard to tell which fruits had been used, going by flavour alone. It makes me wonder whether the traditionalists have it right and that only some fruit combinations are 'right', such as blackberries and apples, or rhubarb and strawberries, and that doing something unconventional doesn't bring about any benefits.
Monday pm - after a slice of the now completely cold cake for lunch, I've revised my opinion a bit. The flavour of both fruits are more evident now than when the cake was eaten still slightly warm, yesterday, and it seems much better for that. However, cold, it's even more of a pity that all the fruit is at the bottom - it makes two distinct layers, which I'm sure wasn't the intention.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Chocolate-Orange Marble Cake

Now that I'm getting interested in blogging, I'm torn between publishing my favorite recipes and finding new things to cook.

This is a family favourite, adapted from an Annabel Karmel recipe which used to be in the BBC Food recipe bank. I can't find it anywhere else online, which surprises me, as it deserves more recognition. It's a better version of the usual two-coloured marble cake; ground almonds are added for moistness and each colour is flavoured differently too. However, the main factor that lifts this above other marble cakes, for flavour, is that melted chocolate, as well as cocoa, is added to the chocolate cake mix. If you don't like the chocolate-orange combination, then you could add vanilla to the cake mix before dividing, then leave the white mix plain.

In the original recipe, Annabel added almond extract to the cake, but I omitted this as I don't want a pronounced almond flavour - just the extra moistness that the almonds give. I also increased the amount of orange zest. The original recipe also used a slightly crazy method of mixing the cake - trying to add the flour and almonds to the creamed fat and sugar before adding the eggs - and I've changed this to use the classic order of adding ingredients. Finally, I bake in a standard cake tin, whereas the original was a cooked in a ring tin.


225g/8 oz butter, at room temperature
225g/8oz caster sugar
80g/3oz ground almonds
175g/6oz SR flour
4 large eggs
3 tbsp milk
finely grated rind of 1 orange
80g/3oz plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 tbsp cocoa

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas 3.

Prepare a 18 or 20cm (7 or 8") diameter round cake tin. I prefer to use a non-stick springform tin, but still line the base with a circle of baking parchment. [Either tin size works OK - it really depends whether you want a shallow or deeper cake, and how hung up you are on a neat flat top - the cake sometimes peaks and cracks in the smaller tin. I don't mind this - I like the home-made look! I bought a springform tin from Amazon which turned out to have an internal diameter of 7 1/2", although it was sold as an 8" tin, so often use that for this cake.]

Mix the flour and ground almonds together in a small bowl.

Cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy - an electric mixer is best for this, but it can be done by hand.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a teaspooon of the flour/almond mix, to prevent curdling. Then sieve the rest of the flour mix over the surface of the cake batter, tipping in any ground almonds which won't go through the sieve mesh. Fold this in until evenly mixed, adding the milk as you do so.

Divide the mixture in two, and stir the orange zest into one portion. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then mix it, and the cocoa, into the second portion. Sift in the cocoa to avoid lumps.

Place alternate dessertspoons of the two mixtures into the cake tin, trying to get at least two layers, with chocolate above orange, and vice versa, on the upper layers, and gently easing the cake mix into place to avoid large gaps in the mixture. Tap the tin to settle the cake mix into any gaps that have been left, then use a skewer or a knife to swirl through the cake mix to marble the two mixes together; don't go overboard with this, just a few swirls are enough.

Bake for about 65-75 minutes, until well risen and golden, and a test probe is clean. If you make the smaller diameter cake it may need the longer cooking time, as the cake is deeper.
Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Decoration is optional - I don't usually add anything, as this is a cake tin filler for everyday use, but if you're baking for a special occasion you could, for example, add an orange flavoured glacé icing, using the strained juice from the orange, or split the cake and fill with orange buttercream and top with a chocolate glaze.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


I picked the first blackberries of the season on Sunday; there is a large patch growing on the south facing bank of an old claypit on the outskirts of town. These are always ready a few weeks before any others growing wild locally and are usually large and sweet - this year is no exception.

Most went straight into the freezer with no preparation, and some to a neighbour, but, with a supply of cooking apples in the house, we had to sample some.

I cooked the blackberries gently with a couple of tablespoons of water, until the juices were flowing. After just a minute or two simmering, I sweetened to taste, then thickened the juices with a little arrowroot. If I had wanted to use the blackberries in a pie or crumble or other cooked dessert, then I wouldn't pre-cook them.

The windfall apples I had been given were not suitable for storage uncooked, so they were peeled cored and sliced and cooked to a thick purée with the minimum amount of added water and sugar to taste. Being cooking apples, they naturally formed a coarse purée as they cooked, so no further work was necessary.

As a mid-week dessert, we can't afford the calories of added pastry or crumble topping, so we ate the cooked fruit simply with Greek yogurt.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Man Cannot Live On Cake Alone.....

..... especially at the weekend! It's time for a dessert.

I had two pieces of luck yesterday. I was given a large bag of windfall cooking apples by a complete stranger (he was intending to deliver them to my neighbours who are away, and decided he didn't want to carry them home), and I passed a couple of kids sitting outside their house, trying to sell greengages to passers-by. That was too good to resist! I bought a kilogram and put 350g into the freezer, 350g aside for a dessert, and ate the other 300g during stoning.

It's very hot and humid today, too hot for anything requiring elaborate preparations or much time in the kitchen, so I decided to make a fruit crumble.

Greenage and Apple Crumble

I added some of the windfall apples to the halved and de-stoned greengages - about 150g after preparation - to bring the total weight of fruit up to around 500g. I added two teaspoons of cornflour and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Greengages are very sweet, so only a little extra sugar was needed, primarly to sweeten the apples. The cornflour was to thicken any fruit juices produced.

I think almonds are a complimentary flavour to plums, so decided to include some in the crumble mix. I'm old fashioned about crumbles and like to have a thick layer of topping on the fruit; the current fashion for a few tablespoons of topping sprinkled over baked fruit doesn't say 'crumble' to me! To make enough topping for 4 portions I used:

50g SR flour
50g rolled oats
50g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
75g butter, cut into small cubes

Put everything into a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients. It's best to leave this mixture lumpy, so don't rub in the butter as much as for pastry!

Put the fruit mix into a 1 litre ovenproof dish - I use a Pyrex casserole dish - tip the crumble mix on top, spread evenly and press down lightly. Bake at 190C, Gas 5 for about 40 minutes, until the crumble is golden and the fruit bubbling. This is a fairly tolerant recipe, so you can bake it higher and faster or more slowly at a lower temperature, if you are coooking other things at a different temperature.

Tonight we ate this just above room temperature, with some Greek yogurt.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Squidgy Lemon-Ginger Cake

I have a built-in problem when it comes to cake making. Because both my husband and I have expanding waistlines, my skinny son eats most of what I cook, but he's very conservative in his tastes. Chocolate is his favourite flavour, but is very monotonous for us. Ginger is one of the flavours he likes, but dried fruit is usually a big no-no. Sticky toffee pudding has been a great success in the past, and also fresh fruit in cakes is often acceptable, so this recipe containing dates used in the same way as in a sticky toffee pudding and small pieces of apple, as well as ginger stood a good chance of succeeding with him.

There was quite a bit of time consuming preparation - grating 50g of ginger, soaking and chopping the dates and finely chopping the apples - but the cake was easy to make. I melted the butter in a large mixing bowl in the microwave, rather than a saucepan on the hob, because I find it easier to mix large quantities in a bowl rather than a saucepan. I made sure the dark muscovado sugar was smooth and lump-free before continuing.

Because the cake was so moist and sticky it was difficult to decide if it was properly cooked after 75 minutes. I tested in two places and the in first test the stick was dry, but in the second it came out with a lot of sticky mixture on it. Two repeat tests in different places gave the same result - one looked cooked, the other didn't. The cake felt firm, so I decided that it was probably done, and I had just hit particularly moist patches on two of the four tests.

When the cake was cold I topped it with a drizzled pattern of lemon glacé icing, as I didn't need the more elaborate decoration used in the recipe.

It was the first time I've made a cake relying on fresh ginger for it's flavour and it seemed to give a much more complex flavour than when using powdered dry ginger. The combination of dates, ginger, lemon and muscovado sugar gave a smell and flavour reminiscent of Christmas cake, but the cake was much lighter and moister than a rich fruit cake.

I really liked this cake; the overall flavour was rich and complex without any one of the contributing elements overwhelming the others.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

My Favourite Brownie Recipes

As with cakes, I've picked up a few brownie recipes over the years, which I'd like to recommend to you:
Our favourite plain chocolate brownies:

200g butter
200g plain chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids, the more the better)
600g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
250g plain flour

4 tablespoons cocoa

Preheat the oven to 180C, 160C fan oven, Gas 4. Prepare a shallow baking tin (30 x 20cm; 12 x 8") as appropriate. I use a roasting tin about 3cm (just over 1") deep, which is completely lined with baking parchment - it makes the brownies much easier to remove after baking.

Cut the butter into cubes, break the chocolate into squares and melt them together in a large mixing bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and cool a little if necessary, so that the mixture is no hotter than blood heat (you don't want to scramble the eggs!).

Stir in the vanilla extract and sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until the mixture is well blended each time.

Sift the flour and cocoa over the mixture, mix in carefully initially, to avoid a flour cloud, then beat the mixture until smooth. Only beat until well-blended - it should only take a few seconds.

Put the mixture into the baking tin and spread out evenly, then bake for about 40-55* minutes until a testing stick comes out almost clean. There should be a few moist crumbs clinging to the tester, but not raw batter.

Cool for a few minutes, then cut into bars with a thin sharp knife. Leave in the tin until completely cold before removing (unless you want to eat them warm!). I usually cut into 24 bars (8 x 3), but you could cut into smaller portions, depending on appetitie and occasion.

*There is a wide range on the cooking times, because everyone's idea of the ideal brownie is different. If you like them really gooey, you might like to try a first test even sooner!

Half quantities can be made in a 7" square tin - will need just a few minutes less cooking time.

Praline Brownies These have a lower sugar content than the recipe above, which I've been using for years, but this is counteracted by the huge amount of chocolate in the recipe - 225g in the brownie mix and another 225g chopped and scattered over the top. I make these with a mix of 100g pralines (Guylian seashells), 75g plain chocolate and 50g white chocolate as a topping. I found they needed an extra 5 minutes in the oven, and I didn't bother with the quick cooling, but I don't like my brownies as gooey as some people do. You can also try different toppings; I tried Green and Black's Mayan Gold Chocolate, but I've now decided, after several attempts to use it, that I don't really like that used in baking. An attempt to use soft fudge as a topping didn't work very well, as the fudge sank through the brownie mix, leaving deep holes over the surface.

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies I made this recipe in an 8" square pan, so that I could cut it into bars, and left out the beer-soaked raisins as I don't think raisins belong in brownies. I also cut down the amount of chipotle powder the first time I made them as I was worried about making them too hot, but it could have taken more heat. I had to make chipotle powder from dried whole chillies, but it can be bought from specialist suppliers online.

Chocolate Mocha Brownies This is really just a chocolate traybake cake; it's far too light to be a real brownie. However it has it's place - for children and elderly aunts (perhaps leave out the nuts) and at times when you want something less rich (as if!!).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

My Favourite Cake Recipes

Although I love making cakes, I've never really felt able to develop many of my own recipes. For one thing, I couldn't justify the financial cost of throwing away mistakes, and up until recently I haven't had the time to do do more than a weekly bake to keep something in the cake tin for my family. However, with years of experience I am confident enough to tweak recipes that I find online, either to make them better (in my opinion), or to adapt them to ingredients I have available.

Here are links to some of the best recipes I've gathered, with any alterations I make to them explained. Whether you follow the original recipe, or use my variation, or tweak the recipe some other way, is up to you:

Banana Crunch Cake This is a very light cake, which is unusual for a banana cake. I make this in an 8" square tin, using softened butter instead of margarine (for a better flavour). I use oatmeal instead of grinding rolled oats and white flour instead of wholemeal. Although I use Demerara sugar in the topping, as specified, I prefer to use light muscovado sugar in the cake itself, as Demerara sugar is slow to dissolve and can give a gritty texture.

Chilli-Chocolate Orange Cake A good balance of flavours in this cake, with the chilli flakes adding a subtle warmth. I make this pretty much as the recipe says, using water instead of rum. I guess I probably use a little more orange zest, as what's the point in taking half the zest from an orange, and how big is 'medium', anyway? I often serve this without the glaze and frosting and it's still very good (with less calories).

Rhubarb and Orange Cake with Flaked Almonds This is a great dessert - a moist dense cake made with fresh fruit. No changes to the recipe necessary!

Lemon Drizzle Cake Classic favourite. This ASDA recipe uses more lemon zest than most. The only change I make to this is to use only half the syrup.

Dan Lepard's Lemon Drizzle Cake A more sophisticated version of the classic cake. Slightly more complicated to make. The lemon drizzle in this recipe makes a frosting on top.

Orange and Almond Cake A dense, moist dessert cake. This is made by cooking and puréeing whole oranges. There are dozens of versions of this cake around. I use this recipe only because it's the first one I tried and it works OK! This has the bonus of being a gluten-free cake.
Tunisian Citrus Almond Cake A Diana Henry recipe. This produces a dessert cake with a similar texture to the orange almond cake recipe above, without the tedious stage of boiling the fruit first. However, it's not gluten-free.

Carrot Cake A light spongy cake. Another superb cake from Good Food, made exactly as per the recipe.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Having maintained for a long time that I couldn't see the point of adding beetroot to a chocolate cake, my curiosity finally overcame my reticence and I decided to try a recipe.

The first problem was finding a reliable recipe; there are so many variations between those online - is it best to add cocoa or drinking chocolate, cooked or raw beetroot? Should I choose a recipe which also added melted plain chocolate; if so, how much? Prompted by a thread on the BBC Food Messageboards, I decided that I needed a recipe which used cocoa and chocolate together for the best possible flavour. Using raw beetroot seemed more convenient - why add an extra time consuming process? Eventually I settled on this recipe from Delicious magazine, mainly because it added a lot of chocolate and a large quantity of beetroot, so would be a good test of it's effects, but I took a tip from a similar recipe and used 80g flour and 25g cocoa instead of 100g flour. For my own convenience I used an 8" square tin rather than the 9" diameter round tin suggested in the recipe.

The recipe worked very well; I had no problems and the cake baked in the specified time.

Once it was cold, I added my own fudge frosting recipe, as I didn't have any sour cream. This was: 50g plain chocolate, 225g icing sugar, 50g butter and 3 tablespoons of milk melted and combined to a smooth mixture in a saucepan. The frosting is beaten frequently as it cools and thickens, until it is a spreadable texture, then put on top of the cake, spread to the edges and swirled with a knife blade to give an attractive finish - much easier than trying to get a smooth finish!

The cake was a revelation to me - the texture was rich and moist without being too dense and the flavour was deep and chocolatey (not surprising with 250g chocolate in it) but not oversweet. I couldn't taste the beetroot at all, although the occasional change in texture reminded me that there was grated vegetable in there!

I guess the conclusion for me is that I wouldn't buy beetroot especially to make a chocolate cake, but when there's a summer glut to be used, it does make a well-textured, tasty cake.