Slow Cooker Steamed Lemon Sponge

And just like that the Christmas holidays are over for another year. Part of me is rather looking forward to having a bit more time to get everything done, but the other part of me is mourning the end of the holiday time and the fact that the boys are returning to school. As a last fun activity for the holidays I thought it would be fun to experiment in the kitchen with a steamed sponge. If the thought of having to watch the pan and continuously top up the water puts you off making a steamed sponge, we cooked ours in the slow cooker.

You could make this with any flavour jam or curd that you have leftover in the fridge or even some gift jars like we did. As we made lemon sponge we put in lemon zest and juice, but altering the flavours would be really easy. For a vanilla sponge, use 1tsp of vanilla extract and your jam flavour of choice. For a chocolate sponge, remove a tbsp of the flour and add a tbsp of cocoa powder and 100g of chocolate chips and use chocolate spread instead of jam or curd. I am sure a chocolate-based pudding is pretty much a firm favourite in most households!

Atticus zesting. Shortly before he tried to eat the lemon without the skin!

Since starting cooking with the kids regularly, I have learnt that asking small hand to hold a citrus fruit and have a go at zesting invariably ends up with somewhat grumpy children. They want to complete the task, but as yet are unable to hold such a large fruit and operate the zester at the same time. To enable them to complete more of recipes using zest on their own, we tend to use a tub grater with the small grater attachment to achieve fine zest. Atticus managed this admirably for this recipe and was quite sad when he had done it all! It may seem obvious, but maybe this tip will help someone. It took longer than it probably should have for the penny to drop for me!

In the slow cooker on high for 3 hours.

The one bit of this recipe the kids didn’t do by themselves, was folding the lid and tying the string around the pudding basin. This can be a bit of a tricky process. I had Seb lay the foil down first and then the baking parchment over it. We folded it in half and then he painted the greaseproof paper with butter. I tied the string round in a double knot while he held on to the edges of the paper to ensure it all went under the string. I did also let Atticus pour the water into the slow cooker. Yes we did have a bit of a puddle on the surface and the floor as the jug was too full for him to accurately gauge the angle and say splish splosh at the same time!


  • Butter/margarine for greasing the pudding basin and parchment
  • 5tbsp of lemon curd
  • 175g butter/margarine (remove from the fridge early to soften if using butter)
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1tbsp milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
The entire lemon sponge in all its yummy glory!


  1. Grease a 1.2 litre pudding basin with lots of butter or margarine. We always use silicone brushes to do this and the kids have fun painting the surface.
  2. Put the 5tbsp of lemon curd in the bottom of the basin and put to one side while making the sponge.
  3. Put all the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl and mix together until fully combined. We used electric beaters to do this.
  4. Pour or dollop the cake mixture into the pudding basin over the lemon curd.
  5. Lay out a bit of foil which is large enough to cover the pudding basin with a bit extra and then a piece of baking parchment on top of it. Put a fold vertically down the middle and grease the baking parchment with butter.
  6. Put the baking parchment (butter side down) over the pudding basin and tie the string round in with a knot. You could also fashion a handle from the string, but I don’t tend to.
  7. Pour water into your slow cooker so that it reaches half way up your pudding basin. We used cold water so the kids could decant the water.
  8. Put the slow cooker on high for 3 hours. I checked the progress of ours by peaking under or poking a skewer through the wrapping at 2 hours. The pudding is ready when a skewer comes out clean.
  9. When out of the slow cooker, uncover and turn the pudding out onto a plate. Serve immediately with custard or ice cream or even plain.

You could also make this on the stove in a large pan allowing it to simmer for 2 1/2 hours. I have found that this is a wonderfully adaptable and versatile pudding. We made ours after lunch and served it for pudding at our evening meal after afternoon when it was ready.

Christmas Brownies

How do you prepare for the festive season? For us it goes a bit like this: in September I start making a list of all the seasonal things I want to make and do over the Christmas period. This list tends to grow right up until Christmas eve and no matter how many activities I manage to strike off the list we never ever manage to get through the whole list.

The decorated tree.

One of the things we most certainly can cross off the list is buying a Christmas tree. Every year I think it would be wonderful to go somewhere where we can choose our tree and cut it down ourselves, but we never quite manage to make it. What we did manage to do this year is have a rather public disagreement about what size tree we should purchase. As usual I was advocating a compact yet perfectly proportioned tree. Simon wanted a tree the size of which would be more suited to Trafalgar Square or the Great Hall at Hogwarts. The kids seemed to find this discord highly entertaining especially when daddy balanced Ophelia on each boys’ head in turn as a unit of measurement for trees, insisting the tree had to be taller. We returned home with three happy children and a tree too big for my liking and too small for Simon’s, but perfect in the children’s eyes. All things considered, the latter is the most important.

Anyway, so back to baking. I always get my way when cake is involved. Simon knows not to try and change my mind when I have an idea for a bake. So when I decided that I wanted to run some sweet mincemeat through my brownie batter with some flaked almonds there was no opposition despite the fact he isn’t a fan of sweet mincemeat. In the end, he did try one and ended up liking it so I am glowing in my victory!


  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 185g light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 200g mincemeat (we used homemade cranberry, orange and Cointreau)
  • 75g flaked almonds
  • 100g white chocolate chips


  1. Put the butter and chocolate into a bowl and put over a saucepan with water. Make sure the water in the pan doesn’t touch the bowl with chocolate and butter. Heat until the chocolate and butter have melted and stir every so often.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a bit. Preheat the oven to 180°c or 160°c fan and grease and line your brownie pan.
  3. Break the eggs into a large bowl with the sugar and whisk until they become thick and creamy.
  4. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula.
  5. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the chocolate and egg mixture and gently fold.
  6. Zap the mincemeat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to loosen it. Add the chocolate chips, flaked almonds and mincemeat and gently fold and stir so they are all evenly distributed.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 25-30 mins and bake until the centre doesn’t wobble when removed from the oven.

If your mincemeat doesn’t contain any alcohol, you could add a tbsp. to the brownie batter to make them more adult flavoured if you so choose. Ophelia and I had fun making these and she looked like a chocolate swamp monster when we were through. Yes I did let her lick the bowl so that is my fault! To my surprise, she didn’t take much convincing to share them. But that said, when her brothers had some, she made it very clear (read at a loud volume) that she made them! I hope you enjoy these Christmas Brownies as much as we did.

Honeycomb Blondies

I recently discovered how easy it is to make honeycomb, or cinder toffee if you prefer to call it that.  Seb and I were rather mesmerized by how it bubbled and fizzed and had great fun smashing it!

After our foray into making cinder toffee, I decided to find something to do with the leftover honeycomb. I decided that it would work nicely in some blondies. Ophelia had a lot of fun mixing and putting the toffee into the mixture. I was impressed at how restrained she was as none of the toffee ended up in her mouth! These are really easy to make with little chefs as they contain melted butter which makes it really easy to mix entirely by hand. We did have rather a lot of flour on the surface during the process, but the result was a truly scrummy baked good. It was so tasty that Seb was heartbroken when daddy ate the last couple of pieces without saving him any. Simon was forbidden from taking the second batch into work after that reaction. This means I have to exercise some super human restraint and ignore them while he is at work. So if I do happen to be in your vicinity with baked goods, please do save me from myself and remove the baked goods from my possession – my waistline will thank you!

Ophelia in charge of the egg.

We also used this recipe to help Ophelia practise her egg cracking skills. The first one she watched me crack and then she had a go on her own. This time we had no egg shell in the mixture and a happy little girl with a round of applause from her mother and grandmother.

You don’t have to have homemade honeycomb for this recipe, you could use some chopped up Crunchie bars and that would also have the added benefit of adding chocolate to the recipe too. Now I have that idea in my head, I may have to go and make another batch of them with Crunchie bars. If you do want to have a go making your own honeycomb, I have left a recipe at the end of this post.


  • 240g plain flour
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 225g melted butter
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 160g cinder toffee or Crunchie bars


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c or 150°c fan and line a brownie pan.
  2. Mix the melted butter and sugar until fully combined.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat.
  4. Put the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
  6. Add the honeycomb and mix.
  7. Put the mixture in the lined brownie pan and cook for 30-35 minutes.
  8. Once cooled sprinkle with sifted icing sugar and cut into squares.

These blondies will not win any prizes in a beauty contest, but the honeycomb caramelised beautifully and rises to the top giving a sort of irregular patchwork effect. They have become a new family favourite particularly with Simon and Seb.

If you want to make your own honeycomb, you will need:

400g caster sugar
100ml runny honey
2tbsp liquid glucose
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda

Put the sugar, honey and glucose in a heavy-based pan and heat to 160°c. Oil a square cake pan with oil . Once the sugar mixture has reached 160°c remove from the heat and quickly add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk. Adult, pour into cake pan and once set smash. We used one of the kids wooden hammers for this.

Malteser Cupcakes

Maltesers are dangerously addictive. I find it near impossible to open a sharing bag and not guzzle the lot at top speed – sharing chocolate is a real struggle for me! So imagine my surprise when I bought a couple of sharing bags of Maltesers to use in mini cupcakes with the kids and then didn’t get round to making them for a couple of weeks and they sat there huddled together in the pantry with their packets completely intact! Practically a miracle.

This activity was a reward for Atticus last week as his swimming lesson was cancelled. He was very upset; a reaction which I had failed to foresee as up until recently he has always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude to his swimming lesson. He went and behaved beautifully for the crèche ladies and played nicely with his sister so I wanted a tangible well done treat.

Atticus in charge of the mixers – no change there!

We started making these quite late on a school night. This made me feel somewhat rebellious as I had it in my head that I should have been preparing dinner so the kids would get to bed on time. As we made them randomly after swimming, I was unable to carve out time to ice them the way I wanted for a couple of days. This meant I was frantically guarding their Tupperware box to prevent any sneaky children (please read husband here too) pilfering them before they had been adequately adorned. In case you were worried (I doubt you were, but anyway), they only ended up in bed 10 minutes later than planned on the night we made them and Simon only managed to sneak a couple out of the tub before they were iced.

Ophelia, it turns out needs further practice with the piping bag. This is not surprising as she is only two. It was rather funny to see her reaction when she had a go; the icing missed the cake and also came out of the top. However, she was in her element putting a single Malteser on top of each decorated cake.

‘Another one of those mummy!’

Oh and also popping some into her mouth and also trying to eat the icing that was being piped. She did manage to get a beautifully sticky handprint on my cake dome in her eagerness to access further chocolatey goodness. I did what any good parent did, and shared mine with her, told her she had to wait until we collected ‘her boys’ (notice they are not my boys!) from school. This went down like a lead balloon- not surprising really!


Makes 30 mini cupcakes or 15 larger cupcakes

For the cakes

  • 180g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 135g self-raising flour
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tbsp malt powder (eg Horlicks)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g margarine
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g melted dark chocolate
  • 110ml whole milk
  • 60g milk chocolate/milk chocolate chips
  • 2 sharing bags of Maltesers (1 inside each cupcake or a couple inside each larger one and 1 each for decoration on the icing)

For the icing

This is enough to ice 15 larger cupcakes, and nearly all 30 mini cupcakes

  • 100g margarine
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 100g melted milk chocolate
  • 2tbsp cocoa


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c fan and put the cupcake wrappers into the muffin trays.
  2. Gently mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, malt powder, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Add the margarine and beat with electric mixers. It may look lumpy, this is fine.
  4. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat again.
  5. Mix in the melted chocolate chips and mix to fully combine.
  6. Pour in the milk and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  7. Half fill each cupcake case and then add a Malteser(s) and then evenly distribute the remaining batter.
  8. Bake little mini cupcakes for 20-25 minutes and the larger ones for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool fully before icing.
  10. Once cooled, beat the icing ingredients except the melted chocolate until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat again. The icing will need to be relatively thick if you wish to pipe it and have it remain rigid (you may need to add more icing sugar), but if you just want to spread it on, that is not so important.

Bounty-ful Baked Doughnuts

Coconut didn’t feature very much in my childhood. I am certainly making up for that now. I can’t seem to shake the need to buy Bounty bars or to make copious bakes with the chocolate and coconut combination. I do have to try an find a more inventive place to hide my secret stash of chocolate though as my husband has discovered it and I need to ensure its safety!

This time, I decided that we would used baked doughnuts to showcase the chocolate-coconut combination and decorate with pieces of Bounty bars. The whole process was really fun, but for the kids the best bit was dunking the doughnuts and then counting out the three slices of Bounty to decorate them. I would be lying if I said these survived 24 hours in our house. I won’t tell you how long they lasted, but I can guarantee I didn’t eat the majority of them. I am surprised by this (I have a very big sweet tooth), although you may not be.


This recipe makes 9 doughnuts.

For the doughnuts

  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 25ml melted coconut oil (just under 1/4 cup when solid)
  • 100ml coconut flavour Greek style natural yoghurt
  • 1tsp coconut flavour
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 100g sugar
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • 100g chocolate chips

For the glaze

  • 2tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3-5 tbsp water
  • 3 large Bounty bars, sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c and grease your doughnut trays. We have silicone doughnut trays, but I do tend to give them a spray with frylight anyway.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and put all the liquid ingredients in a large jug and mix them until fully combined.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl and mix.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour the liquid ingredients into it. Bring it all together with a spoon.
  5. Add the desiccated coconut and chocolate chips and make sure they are evenly distributed.
  6. Put an equal amount of the mixture in each of the 9 doughnut moulds and place in the oven for 15-17 minutes until they have risen, are golden and springy to the touch.
  7. Leave to cool in the moulds for a little bit before transferring to a cooling rack.
  8. Meanwhile slice the Bounty bars and make the glaze by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. This glaze needs to be quite thick for the Bounty slices to stay on well. You may need to add extra icing sugar.
  9. Dunk one side of each doughnut in the glaze and then decorate with Bounty slices. Leave to set before enjoying.

Go on! Make some – they are yummy!

The kids are eager to make these again soon as they were so easy and yummy so keep your eyes peeled for more flavour variations! Do drop me a line if you make these. I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I shall leave you with another picture of the yummy Bounty-ful doughnuts to encourage you that you really do want to give this recipe a go!

Peanut Butter Traybake

We do a lot of cooking and baking in this house. No surprise there, you have probably seen the vast majority of my creations on here or on social media. I do admit to sometimes feeling guilty about the amount of sweet treats my kids consume. Sugar is still sugar even if it is in a homemade recipe. Increasingly I have started adapting recipes and reducing the sugar in some and we have even been known to make healthier options like cereal bars and no added sugar brownies.

When it was healthier!

This recipe is one that started off as one of a ‘healthy cake’, with no added sugar and only using some honey to sweeten it. But this time, I got influenced by the Great British Bake Off. These were originally going to be muffins, but after cake week on GBBO, I decided to make it into a traybake. When it came out of the oven, it smelt lovely and like a rich nutty banana bread. All good. Had we left it there, they would have been the original ‘healthy cake’ I had planned and fabulous for fuelling my kids on the return journey from school. But no, I let myself be convinced by my little people (it didn’t take much convincing in all honesty) to drench them in Nutella. Everything is better with Nutella right?! It did make them a lot messier too so they never ended up being eaten on the way home from school, only at the table to try and contain the inevitable mess! We did get 16 evenish looking pieces all decorated the same – we added an peanut on each of the slices to try and make them look elegant.


These can be made in a traybake like we did, or even in mini muffin or normal muffin sized portions. I often like to make 12 tiny muffins and 6 large ones so the children can have smaller portions and still eats ‘a whole cake’.

  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 100g oats (ground in the food processor)
  • 200ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 300g smooth no added sugar peanut butter
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Put the bananas into a large bowl and squish and squash with forks.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix until fully combined.
  4. Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. Leave to cool for a little in the tin and then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  6. When cool, spread Nutella or your chocolate spread of choice on them if you wish.

I admit these were shared with friends as I cannot be trusted with peanut butter or Nutella. I didn’t want to have an argument with myself about how many slices is too many!

If you do make any of my recipes I would love to hear from you on here or social media, so please do get in contact!

Gooseberry and Coconut Muffins

Isn’t the expression ‘play gooseberry’ strange? Despite its meaning, it evokes images of a game kind of like sardines or even looking for small things in the garden in the summer. Or is that just me?!

Seb successfully topping and tailing the gooseberries.

We didn’t eat many gooseberries as children as my grandmother gave them to my mum quite frequently and it seems they were not always appreciated as she never added sugar to them. As such I am the first to admit that I am not overly familiar with gooseberry recipes. When I realised they were in season (I absolutely love using seasonal fruit and veg!), I remembered a recipe that I tore out of the Good Food magazine from June 2014 to try, (yes I did have to look the date up, my memory is not that good) but never got round to making. Simon is forever trying to get me to cull my recipe collection. This suggestion is generally met with disdain as if I chuck them I can never make them and you never know when you may well need a random recipe removed from a magazine over 4 years ago! Well that is my argument anyway.

As I was looking at it, I found that my mind was thinking about how I could alter the recipe to turn them into muffins. In this house, individual cakes tend to be more popular than large cakes that need to be sliced. After adding in oats and swapping self raising flour for wholemeal self raising flour and choosing light brown soft sugar, I decided that Seb and I were ready to make these muffins.


Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

  • 100g butter
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 50g oats
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 60g coconut yoghurt
  • 100g gooseberries, topped and tailed

For the topping

  • 2tbsp melted butter
  • 1tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • 25g oats


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°c fan and put 12 muffin cases into a muffin tray.
  2. Squish and squash the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Crack in the two eggs and beat them in.
  4. Add in the wholemeal self raising flour, desiccated coconut, oats and coconut yoghurt and mix until fully combined.
  5. Gently stir in the gooseberries.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 muffin cases.
  7. Place in the oven for 10 minutes
  8. Mix the melted butter, sugar, coconut and oats. Remove the muffins from the oven and share out the topping between the 12 muffins.
  9. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until they are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

These muffins were enjoyed as part of a picnic as well as snacks and even breakfast one morning (oats, wholemeal flour and fruit is what I told myself when I allowed it). It turns out Seb quite enjoys gooseberries and Simon appreciated them more than he thought he would! The gooseberries provide a nice tart contrast to the sweetness of the cake. Do let me know if you make them and what you think.

Apricot, Pistachio and Coconut Traybake

I have had a packet of pistachios in the pantry for about 3 months. Every time Simon tried to go near them for a snack, I would angrily fend him off them citing that I intended to put them in an imminent cake. At each request to eat them the cake changed as I could never quite choose what to make with them. I am not sure if he noticed this or not, but I am guessing that he did and he chose to keep his silence. The cake excuse seemed to work to my advantage in this instance, this is not always the case!

Well I finally got round to using them with Ophelia when the boys were busy enjoying Holiday Bible Club. Now Ophelia loves pretty much all fruit. I am always having to share whatever fruit I have just tucked into with my daughter. Not that I am complaining, I am absolutely delighted that she loves fruit. I do, however, sort of begrudge having to share every single cherry with her: half for mummy, half for Phe. With this love of fruit in mind, I decided to combine the pistachio with dried apricot in a traybake.

This traybake doesn’t rise a great deal; it has a low flour content. Despite that, it is beautifully moist and the coarsely ground pistachios and desiccated coconut give an extra nutty depth to the flavour. The chocolate was added as chocolate goes with pretty much anything right?!

We had a lot of fun preparing the ingredients. I did, however, forget how much mischief a 2 year old can get up to when I don’t have her older brothers entertaining her. We had sugar and coconut all over not only the surface, but her too her. Oh and there was also her half-eaten apple which she refused to relinquish. She was so enthusiastic with every step of this recipe. She did, however, need help finishing off some of the steps and doing the more challenging bits.The 5 and 4 year old would have managed it with minimal help.


  • 150g dried apricots
  • 115g golden caster sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 65g desiccated coconut
  • 50g pistachios
  • 30g self raising flour
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 50g white chocolate


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie tin or other shallow baking tin.
  2. Slice the dried apricots with a table knife or chop them with scissors (we used a table knife, but upon reflection, the scissors would have been easier).
  3. Put the pistachios in a food processor and blitz until coarsely ground. It is nice to have some larger pieces in the mixture.
  4. Cream the butter and golden caster sugar together until light and fluffy (you can use an electric hand mixer for this, but we used wooden spoons).
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  6. Fold in the flour, desiccated coconut, coarsely ground pistachios and the dried apricots.
  7. Add the chocolate chips and mix.
  8. Put the mixture in the brownie tin and then gently flatten with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula.
  9. Cook for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer  (not inserted into a chocolate chip!) comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. This is quite a fragile cake so this will need to be done carefully.
  11. Once fully cooled, melt the white chocolate (we did this in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, mixing after each 10 seconds). Drizzle over the cooled cake and allow to set before cutting into 16 squares.



Pear Brownies

It feels like an age since I wrote a post for the blog. This is probably because we were camping last week down in sunny Dorset, which you may well have seen from my Instagram page. The break from technology that our camping trip enforced was very restful, but that said I must admit that I am not a natural camper. I find the change in routine when the children refuse to settle until 9pm frustrating. Luckily for me, Simon is ridiculously calm and takes all these changes in his stride and doesn’t let little things like small children deciding that bedtime is not longer applicable when camping bother him.

My first thought when we arrived home was yippee we are back, now I can make cake. Then I realised we had no eggs and the children were sound asleep as it was 9.30pm. So I was grown up and patient (yes patient, it is rather surprising) and decided to send Simon to the supermarket for eggs wait until the morning.

This morning it took me all of around 2 minutes to decide what we would make. We bought some chocolate spread while on holiday for easy sandwiches for the kids (yes unhealthy, but I am ignoring the guilt that is threatening to emerge as it was a camping treat along with chocolate cereal…) and it was only half used. I decided we would make brownies to finish the chocolate spread and top it up with the Nutella from the pantry as we didn’t quite have enough leftover. In all honestly, the pears were added as a small nod to healthy eating and a balanced diet, as who doesn’t love chocolate with pear?!

Note to self, PLEASE remember cooking with the kids the morning after returning from a camping trip is not the wisest idea as the aforementioned children may tend towards grumpiness due to over tiredness. Bickering may well ensue over who gets to help out with which bit of the activity and a couple of deep breaths from the adult supervisor may well be required. Oh yes and a strong cup of coffee. I want to stress that no children were harmed during the making of these brownies, and all children left the table with extremely chocolatey faces and fingers and huge grins plastered across their tired, but happy faces.


  • 400g chocolate spread (we used half Nutella and half plain chocolate spread)
  • 50g butter/margarine (we used Flora)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 140g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 1 pear, cored and sliced
  • 1tbsp runny honey


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. Spoon the chocolate spread out of the jar and place it in a large mixing bowl keeping a beady eye on crafty children who may decide to try and divert spoonfuls into their mouths rather than the bowl.
  3. Crack the 3 eggs into the same bowl and add the butter. Whisk with an hand mixer until all smooth.
  4. Add in the flour and cocoa powder and mix with wooden spoons until fully combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and mix again.
  6. Pour and spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently smooth the surface.
  7. Remove the pear’s core (I did this bit for the children) and slice into long thin pieces.
  8. Gently place the pear on top of the brownie mixture (don’t push down or they will end up underneath the batter).
  9. Brush all the exposed bits of pear with a bit of honey and place in the over for 40-45 minutes. A skewer should come out coated with some batter for a slightly squishy brownie. Cook for longer if you want a firmer brownie.

These brownies have a slightly cake-like texture, but are 100% yummy. We cut them into 16 squares. The children enjoyed theirs as pudding after lunch, I preferred mine with my mid-morning coffee as I had to check that they were edible before distributing them to the children! Well that’s my excuse anyway…

Rhubarb and Caramel Cake

It has been a particularly busy 10 days or so, with Simon away for work for some of it and school winding down for the year for one and the whole induction process starting for another child. I am a great planner. I love a list and ticking things off it and I thought this would be the best way to cope in Simon’s absence. My problem, however, is that I tend to try and cram too much into a tiny or even miniscule amount of time and end up getting stressed or upset when it doesn’t go to plan and I don’t achieve any of the fun stuff. So I had big plans for wonderful cooking projects with the kids this week in daddy’s absence, but they didn’t come to fruition the way I had hoped or expected.

Guess what lifted my mood? Something came and turned my frustration at the week around. Well I doubt you will guess, so let me tell you. I found some more reduced rhubarb in the supermarket! Yes, it is earth shatteringly exciting news and is such a non-event that I should gloss over it and claim the idea came to me some other amazing way, but alas no.  Three sticks of humble rhubarb managed to turn my week around as they gave me a reason to do some more experimenting in the kitchen with Atticus and Ophelia. We also have a jar of dulce de leche which has been peering at me from its position in the pantry (next to the honey and the Nutella if you are curious as to where we keep it) and longing to be loved and used in a recipe. These two ingredients sounded like a good match with the sweetness from the dulce de leche contrasting nicely with the sharpness of the rhubarb so I set about developing a recipe to combine the two.

Now Atticus’s track record with Rhubarb isn’t great. Both Ophelia and Seb liked the rhubarb in the Rhubarb and Strawberry Flapjacks, but Atticus wasn’t as keen. On the other hand, his track record with cake is particularly good (no surprise there) so maybe combining the two might lead to success? My hope was that Atticus would enjoy the rhubarb in this recipe and then it would be the beginning of a long and happy lifetime enjoying rhubarb-based puddings. And before you ask, yes I do  think about food, how to encourage my children to eat and try new foods and what I can make next most with them. But, while the kids and I are both enjoying ourselves, I believe it is a pattern that will continue for the foreseeable future.


  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml Greek-style natural yoghurt
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 100g fudge chopped into small pieces
  • 3 sticks of rhubarb sliced and mixed with 50g light brown sugar
  • Icing sugar for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°c fan and grease and line a 23cm circular cake tin. Atticus had fun trying to draw around the tin although it did need tidying up!
  2. Place the sliced rhubarb in a small bowl with 50g of light brown sugar and let it sit.
  3. Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl mix the yoghurt, the dulce de leche and vanilla extract together and then add to the egg mixture and mix until fully combined.
  5. Gently mix in the flour.
  6. Chop the fudge into small pieces and add them to the cake batter and then add the sugar coated rhubarb and fold them both in.
  7. Put the mixture in the tin and gently flatten with a spatula. Then place in the oven for 40-50 minutes until a cake skewer comes out clean. Check the cake after the first 20 minutes as it may need to be covered to prevent burning.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a bit. Take out of the tin to finish cooling and sprinkle some icing sugar on top before serving through a sieve. It is much harder to get a nice effect when you let a four year old try and do it alone!

Despite the yumminess of this cake, Atticus is yet to revise his opinion of rhubarb. I shall have to try harder to find a way to convince him.  However, seeing as the rhubarb season here in the UK is coming to an end, I guess it will have to wait until next year.