“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Given that my dad’s life philosophy is, “Any excuse for a party,” I’ve got to say that I was initially attracted to the name of this recipe. Who wouldn’t want to know how to build a party cake? Count. Me. In.

The basic premise behind this recipe is that Deb gives you a foundation recipe that’s pretty simple and requires no unusual ingredients or multiple bowls. You then scale it up following the directions in the book depending on how big a cake and/or party you’re having. Absolute genius.

So we weren’t having a party on the day I made this cake, but following my dad’s life philosophy, I made it anyway. It went down a storm. Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting cake I’ve ever made, but it was really good and really easy. I’m fairly adept at making cakes, but I can imagine this would be the perfect recipe for someone who was a bit nervous about making a whole cake. (I feel your pain. The first cake I made [when I was 12, but still] was an utter disaster.) This would be a good place to start. It’s also a perfect recipe for when you need a lot of cake, like cupcakes for a school bake sale or a large sheet cake for a pot-luck dinner.

Everyone in this family loved it. It was really moist and the chocolate icing I made to go with it was lovely. I even pushed the boat out and used my American sprinkles (twice in one month! I KNOW), which made it look even prettier.

Party builder cake? Let’s do this.

“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Let’s start this cookbook off with a bang. I mean, come on! Look at this picture! If you’re not salivating over this, please check yourself for a pulse. Even the penguins seem envious.

The genius idea behind this recipe is to find a new use for your waffle maker. In this case, rather than making bog standard breakfast waffles– which frankly are always delicious– you can kick it up to 11 by making brownie waffles. It’s such a genius idea I’m sorry I didn’t think of it first.

When I made this as an afternoon snack on a recent wintery afternoon, both sons were making very appreciative noises as they hoovered it down. I turned to Andrew, who will be leaving for university in September, and said, “Please remember this after-school snack of deliciousness when you’re digging into your pot noodle after a hard day of classes. Then, I want you to pick up the phone, call me and say, ‘I miss you, Mom.’ ”

{He promised he would. We’ll see.}

While delicious, the thing to bear in mind about this particular snack is it is very, very rich. The recipe includes instructions on how to make not only the brownie waffles, which would be good just on their own, but also the chocolate sauce that you pour over both the ice cream and the whipped cream. It’s a lot of yumminess, so be prepared. But it is so, so good.

The eagle-eyed among you may also notice the inclusion of brightly coloured sprinkles, which are unavailable over here in Europe and the United Kingdom due to the massive amount of E numbers required to make the fun colours. Readers, I have friends and family bring me large tubs of these whenever they’re visiting from the U.S. so we always will have sufficient amounts of fun sprinkles. Life is too short to be eating dull sprinkles.

Will we be eating this again? Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe next time I’ll make some for the penguins too.

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Unbelievably Dark & Delicious Chocolate Cake” from “Home Cook”

I’m not going to beat around the bush: This was a disaster.

Just look at the picture above as it really is worth 1,000 words. It’s just one big gloopy mess. It was, frankly, an embarrassment. Even worse, we had guests over for dinner, so I was mortified times 1,000.

The reason I wanted to make this was because I was intrigued (to say the least) by using melted Mars bars to make the chocolate ganache-like topping. It worked, but only up to a point, because there was no indication that I should let the topping cool a bit before assembling the cake, and thus, disaster struck.

Obviously, the instructions are lacking in some regard. Although I let the chocolate ganache on top cool before I had poured it over, (even though the recipe didn’t say to do this) clearly I didn’t wait long enough. But what is that sweet spot timing wise between having pourable chocolate that doesn’t melt the whipped cream but hasn’t solidified too much that it doesn’t pour? Alas, the recipe doesn’t say.

Consequently, it was just a big hot mess on the table.

The story does have a happy ending, though. After it had time to cool off and get its act together, the cake really was delicious the next day. It was just hard to forgive it the mess it made the previous evening.

“Unbelievably Dark & Delicious Chocolate Cake” from “Home Cook”

“Pretzel Peanut Butter Pie” from “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

I have to admit that when I stumbled across this recipe when browsing through the book, my very first thought was, “Colour me intrigued!” My second thought was, “When can I make this?”

In the introduction, Ruby said her inspiration for this came from the Candy Bar Pie at Momofuku in New York. Maybe that’s why I felt an immediate need to try this out: it spoke to me in a very deep way because of my American roots.

A flavour combination like this can only go one of two ways: wonderfully or horribly. There is no middle ground when it comes to this sort of combination. But given that this entire family is a fan of the peanut butter and chocolate combination– again, I blame the American in our DNA– I figured we had nothing to lose if we threw in some pretzels, too.

I am thrilled to report that this was wonderful.

But Pretzel Peanut Butter Pie isn’t going to work if you don’t like chocolate and peanut butter together, or indeed chocolate covered pretzels, or even the sometimes odd sweet-salty pairings that are available. (When Googling that exact phrase, I found something called a “Doughnut Burger,” which literally made me shudder. But on the same list from Buzzfeed, I found a listing for Chocolate Covered Bacon and I thought, “Yup. I’d try that.”)

I think the true test of any baked good is how long the leftovers last sitting around the kitchen. With two hungry teenage boys in the house, good things don’t last long. This pie, for example, was gone within 24 hours.

That tells you everything you need to know.

If you’re brave enough and are a fan of peanut butter and chocolate– with pretzels thrown in for good measure– click through this paragraph to find the recipe from The Guardian. 

“Pretzel Peanut Butter Pie” from “Flavour: Eat What You Love”

“Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake” from “Flavour”

It seems appropriate to start a month of cooking with a Great British Bake Off runner up with a cake. Also, I have found in life there is always a good reason to have some chocolate cake. Those truly are words to live by.

Using the word “Easy”, however, gave me pause. Baking a cake isn’t easy for everyone. I distinctly remember the first time I tried to make a chocolate cake. It was almost exactly 15 years ago and I wanted to make a cake for Tim’s birthday. I dutifully went off to John Lewis to buy the cake pans and other bits I needed to make it. The cake part went fine, but when it was time to make the icing, it was an UTTER DISASTER. The icing just poured down the sides of the cake and pooled around the cake on the cake dish. It was laughably bad.

It’s a wonder that I ever tried to make a cake again. But I persevered, and in fact, it was only two years later that I made a wedding cake– or actually should be CAKES– to feed 250 people.

While I did find this easy, I also know that I’m much better at making cakes than I used to be. So I honestly don’t know if it would be easy for everyone. It definitely was easier than the cake I made last month, the Devil’s Food Cake with Buttercream Meringue. The directions for this cake are clear and straightforward, so if you want to try your first cake, this might be a good place to start.

Most importantly, it is delicious. It is an unfussy, moist and delectable specimen of a cake. It is the type of cake that sits happily on a counter and you just take small slivers off of it every time you’re a bit peckish until suddenly there’s nothing left. I wouldn’t just limit making this cake for birthdays, either. We had no birthdays to celebrate here and yet we managed to force it down. Again to reiterate: There’s always a good reason to have chocolate cake.

Highly recommended. (Though I still don’t know if it’s easy or not.)

Try this recipe! Ruby helpfully also wrote it up for her column in the Guardian, which you can find if you click through this link. 


“Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake” from “Flavour”

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”


This was one of the first recipes I tried from Nigella’s book, back last year. Chocolate chip cookie dough, but all melty in a pot…what could wrong? Well it turns out NOTHING. This recipe is perfect in every way and I’ve made it countless times this year. Super easy, you can prepare it in the fridge hours before your guests arrive (I use the clingfilm covering to push down the dough in the pots) and it’s always a winner. ALWAYS. Which is pretty much what Maureen said last year too! . So if you’re looking for an easy, crowd pleaser of a dessert then try this one. And enjoy!

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”


We’ve been doing a lot of comfort eating in this house in November. That’s the beautiful thing about food, isn’t it? You could be in the worst possible mood or you might even think the world is coming to an end, but after sharing a delicious meal (preferably one that everyone loves) things definitely improve.

Consequently, November has been full of our family’s Food Greatest Hits: Pizza. Sausage sauce. Chicken parm. Chocolate chip cookies. Cake. Macaroni and cheese. Spaghetti and Meatballs. These are the foods that we love, so these are the foods we’ve been eating.

And brownies.

Lucky for us, the “Bread Street Kitchen” cookbook has a recipe for the “World’s Best Brownies.” That’s a fairly bold claim, but we thought it best to give them a test before we thought that title could be used.

So is it the world’s best brownie? I’m not sure about that, but it’s pretty damn good.

In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I made it, I forgot to put in about half of the flour. Consequently, those brownies were THE MOST DELICIOUS I’VE EVER HAD. I’ll be damned, though, if I can figure out how much flour, exactly, I left out so I could replicate that wondrous experience again.

The second time I made them, I did remember to include all of the flour, but as a result, the brownies were more cake-like. They were good, to be sure, but I did not reach the brownie nirvana I experienced the time before.

Would I make it again? Yes. If nothing else, so I could figure out just exactly how much flour to add in order to reach brownie nirvana again.

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”


Book club night!

I love being able to try out new recipes from our tester cookbooks for book club, but they also love to be the guinea pigs, so I call that a win-win situation.

Tonight it was time to try another flourless chocolate cake. I’ve tested quite a few on this blog. I think my favourite– or at least the one I turn to repeatedly– is the one by Angela Hartnett in “A Taste of Home”.

This one was much like the others. I’m thrilled to say that it didn’t collapse, but as I’ve written previously, I know to beat the egg whites in utter submission in order for the cake to stay firm after baking.

The new addition to this particular version of flourless chocolate cake was the making of coffee cream to go with it, where you whip up double cream, a coffee paste and some alcohol. Diana Henry wanted me to add whiskey to it, but given just the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous, I decided to add amaretto instead. Tim suggested if I make the cream again I use Bailey’s Irish Cream, which I thought was a stellar suggestion, so I will do that.

The book club loved it. We were busy disagreeing on our opinion of the book* [see below], but we could agree on loving this cake. It was another winning recipe.

*If you’re curious what we read, it was “The Reader on the 6.27” by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, and translated by Ros Schwartz. I loved it, but the club was split on its option. Five of us loved it, four of us hated it. I would urge you to read it, but four of my friends would not. For what it’s worth.

This recipe, which I definitely recommend, can be found on the Telegraph website. You can read it by clicking through this paragraph.

“Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream” from “Simple”

“Malted Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Tart” from “Stirring Slowly”


I have cooked a great many things over the years, but never a tart. So I don’t know what came over me when I decided to make this although I do have a thing for raspberry and chocolate, it has to be said. When yesterday’s plans were cancelled it felt like the time had come to open the cookbook and start making this tart. Until making it, I had no idea how many ways a tart could go wrong. But I persevered, despite the crack in the pastry and when I overfilled the case with filling and when the two kinds of filling mixed together in the case. And I am so glad I did. It is a showstopper of a tart. Literally taking our breath away with the combination of flavours. Will I make it again? Now that’s a good question…I might. You never know! The flavours are quite something. And it’s always good to try new things. Who knows, maybe I will become a maker of tarts, especially if they all taste as wonderful as this! Watch this space.

“Malted Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Tart” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”


Kirstin: It’s always a wonderful feeling to find a recipe that you know you will treasure and pass on to others. These recipes, for me, must be easy and delicious. I set the bar even higher when it comes to desserts and baking as our family is not a fan of sweet food. But this recipe might just make into our Hall of Desserts Fame. Fabulously easy and tasting rather special, this chiffon cake is a winner. I was a tad worried about the cardamom, but I shouldn’t have been as it set off the chocolate and coffee perfectly. I am already looking forward to making this again, and smile at the thought of the book page becoming more splattered as the years go by.

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”