Simnal Cake – its Easter after all

No one can deny it’s getting sunnier. It is Easter after all. Now to most people this would mean getting lots of chocolate and bunny teddies, for me it’s Simnal cake. If I remember my Sunday school teaching, the cake is suppose to be made to break the 40days and nights in half. My late godmother would probably say I should wait till then, but I’m slightly impatient.

Simnal cake is in essence a rich fruitcake with 2 layers of marzipan, one in the middle of the cake and one on top. It is then decorated with 11-12 balls of marzipan to represent the apostles, minus Judas………….. some would call this controversial, but it’s a cake! No one is quite sure when it dates from, but most likely the medieval period.

Just be warned, This cake isn’t for the type of person who only tolerates fruitcake…… It’s packed

Simnal Cake


  • 8oz Self Raising flour
  • 8oz Stork
  • 8oz Light muscavado Sugar
  • 8oz Sultanas
  • 4oz Glacé cherrys
  • 2oz mixed peel
  • 2teaspoons mixed spice
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Marzipan

I’m making this one for my mums tearoom, so get to use her country living style kitchen with Welsh dresser.

Start by weighing out the flour, sugar and stork and adding to the mixer. Next add all the fruit and mixed peel. The glace cherrys will need quartering so you get a good dispersal throughout the cake.

Finally add the lemon zest, mixed spice and the eggs.

Combine using the K beater as opposed to the ballon whisk which will get stuck in the fruit.

Whilst the batter mixes, roll out a disk of the marzipan. You can make this using ground almonds etc, but ready made examples exist and taste just as good.

Time to assemble the cake. In a deep 8″ tin add half the cake batter, then gently place the disk of marzipan. Finish by topping with the remaining cake batter.

Bake at 150C for 2hr 20mins. After 1hr you might want to add a foil hat to stop the cake browning too heavily-it sometimes works. Leave to cool for 15mins before removing from the tin

To add an extra level of moistness, make a sugar syrup with some rum, cherry brandy, quantro etc. Boil off the alcohol and pour over the cake after making a few holes.

Finally, decorate the cake by topping with the marzipan balls. Start by rolling out a disk the same size as the cake.

To make it stick to the cake, gentle brush the top of the fruitcake with warm apricot jam then firmly crimp the disk to the cake.

All that reminds is to add the apostles, minus Judas of course . Lastly, brush with a little beaten egg and woft with a blow torch.

Simnal Cake

So this cake is currently on sale in the tearoom. Therefore, come a get a cup of tea and a slice- what more do I need to say


P.s Holly, Lorna and Emma, I once sent a cake to a friend in Libya……………. I dare say Asia and Aus are a little easier if you fancy a treat x


Red Velvet Cake – Valentines Day special

“What are your qualifications………. I highly doubt you are qualified for this”
Now, I’ve heard those words whilst closing the  cockpit hatch on prototype and vintage jets. However, never have I had such a statement said to me in theatre, especially for an appendicectomy.  Hospital colleagues become your second family; so on Valentine’s Day nurses smile, consultants buy coffee for everyone and I make cake. Of course there are a few people who don’t play, the grumpy uncles like the anaethestic Dr above………….

As it’s Valentine’s Day only one cake will do, Red Velvet cake. My first taste of this cake was in a fabulous little coffee shop behind the Queen Elizabeth Hospital when I was a 4th year medical student. The cream cheese frosting with its cake crumbs was wonderfully sweet, something that couldn’t be said about the person I had taken on a date.

So let’s get started, Red Velvet cake – the team are waiting after all.

Red Velvet Cake




  • 10oz self raising flour
  • 8oz Stork
  • 8oz castor sugar
  • 2 bottles Red food colouring
  • 4eggs
  • 6oz Cream Cheese
  • 6oz icing sugar
  • 3oz unsalted butter
  • 6oz white chocolate
  • Vanilla bourbon


Start by assembling the ingredients and taking a pretty photo. Having a country kitchen with a Welsh dresser really helps for this. The next step is to halve the chocolate and melt it, minus a piece or too.

When the chocolate is melted, start working on the cake. Again, I’m using the all in one method of making a cake. So, put the sugar, flour, stork, eggs, vanilla and all that food colouring into the mixer and combine.

When the cake batter is well combined and contains lots of air to make it fluffy, gently fold in the molten chocolate. Trying not to eat all the raw cake mix, divide equally into two  8″ cake tins. This can be done scientifically with scales or, if you don’t want to be that exact, a spoon and ‘one for me, one for you’ also does the trick.

Bake the cake at 180C for 25mins, or until a knife/chopstick inserted into the middle comes out clean.


Before you can go any further you need to let the cake cool fully, otherwise the icing will melt and disaster will strike. I would suggest going to the pub and winning a quiz…………



With a bit of liquid courage on-board following the quiz, it’s time to form the cake. Start by cutting the cakes in half, this will give you the 4 layers of the cake. remember to collect the cake shavings from this cutting, it will later form your crumb topping.

In the mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and the other half of the chocolate (molten obviously).  Now, assemble the cake by putting a layer of the icing between each cake.

The cake should now look rather tall but you will have noticed that the icing picks up lots of crumbs. This will obviously detract from the appearance of the finished cake, thus some clever so-and-so a long time ago came up with a crumb layer. This is done by covering the whole cake in a thin layer of icing and then cooling for 30mins.

With the crumb layer nicely chilled, cover the cake in the rest of the icing and smooth over to produce nearly finished cake.  All that reminds is to add the cake crumbs we shaved earlier, first around the top of the cake and then the sides.


Time for cake

Well there we have it, Red Velvet cake fit for the hard-working staff of the NHS. Oh and that anaesthetic consultant I told you about at the beginning of the blog, well he didn’t get any…………


French onion soup and gruyere baguettes

“Dude, you’ve got soooo FAT”

As you all remember last year I was placed in ED for 4 months over winter and had a great time. Well now I’m training as a surgeon I still have to go down to review patients and see the traumas. Well, that means seeing all my old gang including the legendary Riad. He’s from Trinidad and just says it like it is, including that opening line when I saw him again for the first time.
He of course has a point, since ED I’ve put on a couple of pounds; mostly due to being on call and not eating properly. Well I’m going to resolve that over the new few posts with healthy food and to kick it off I’m starting with a childhood  favourite: French Onion Soup with a baguette

French onion soup



  • 2lb onions (mixture of white and shallots)
  • Chicken stock
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Butter
  • Rapesead oil
  • Salt and Pepper

I’ve decamped to my house for this recipe so sadly no nice Welsh Dressers in the background.

You can either make the chicken stock by simmering a chicken carcus with onions, celery, carrots and herb – as I did………. Or you can buy it. Both result in a lovely stock, making your own means you can think of uses for the chicken – Homemade KFC anyone??

Whilst the stock simmers get started on the onions – There are a lot to slice and if you tend to cry then perhaps get some goggles – or make someone else do it. Try and slice them finely to allow the onions to soften evenly.

With all the onions and garlic ready, soften and brown on a medium heat in oil with a little butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Remember to occasionally move the onions around the pan to stop them sticking and burning. Then add the stock and simmer for around an hour. Plenty of time to make a baguette……….

Gruyere Baguette


  • 8oz strong brown flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • Fresh yeast
  • 6oz cool water
  • Gruyere cheese

Start by combining the flour, oil, yeast and salt in the kitchenaid. With the dough hook attached, start to add the water till a soft dough is formed

Work the dough for 10mins till smooth and elastic. At this point you need to cover and leave it to proof. A top tip here is making a good cup of tea to pass the time……

After an hour the dough should be doubled in size.


Knock the dough back and divide into 2. Form this into Baguette shapes- roll it out like you used to do with playdough at school ;).

To help the baguettes rise and keep their shape you can either use a thick bread cloth( which is tradition) or a Baguette tray like me


Leave to proof for 30mins. Once doubled again make some slashes along the top of the baguette


Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for 15mins.


Let’s eat

All that remains is to get a big bowl of the warming, slimming soup, cut a few chunks of the bread and top with gruyere………….

For an added luxury grill the cheese till golden brown.


Ok, so it was originally slimming………..


Caramel and Ginger Cake

“You have to up your game babes………..”

Fantastic support from my girlfriend in response to the news of getting shortlisted for GBBO ’17. She did however have a point, to date the blogs have been mainly savoury or bread based. Well, luckily I recently made some candied ginger, so the choice was obvious, a bit of gingering up

Normally spiced ginger cake is made with lots of black treacle, dark sugar and this results in a gorgeous but very dense cake. The only problem is following Christmas I’ve put on a few pounds so officially I’m on a ‘light diet’. Ok, well cake isn’t exactly dieting, especially with a salted caramel frosting, but I won’t tell if you don’t………………


Ginger Cake

As before collect all your ingredients together – you don’t want to have to nip out half way through


  • 10oz self raising flour
  • 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • Candied Ginger – homemade
  • 8oz stork
  • 1tbsp ground ginger
  • 1tbsp mixed spice
  • 1tbsp Golden syrup
  • 1tbsp black Treacle
  • 4eggs


You can make cakes in multiple methods, via creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs and then folding in the flour etc. This takes time and according to Mary Berry provides no better results than the all-in-one method.

Start by weighing out the flour and adding it to the bowl of the mixer, then to this add the sugars.


Now measure the spices and add to the mix. The candied ginger is homemade by slowly simmering raw ginger in sugar syrup for an hour then cutting it into small chunks. Add these and the stork to the sugar and flour.

Now add the syrup, treacle and eggs. And that’s all the ingredients finally together.

Combine at high speed with a ballon whisk until light and fluffy. Now transfer to the greased 8″ tins – split evenly and cook at 180C for 25mins till a sqewer inserted comes out clean.


Leave to cool.

Salted Caramel


  • 2oz ginger sugar
  • 2oz butter
  • 1tbsp water
  • 100ml double cream

After weighing all the ingredients, start by heating the sugar and water till it has reduced down to produce a thick syrup with a light brown colour. Don’t stir during this period, it will act as a point of crystallisation and mean you have to start again.

Once the syrup is ready, add in the butter and cream. This bit is the part you don’t want to be stood with your face over the pan…….. it causes a lot of steam and can spit and burn you.


After this, it’s simply a case of cooking the caramel down until a temperature of 118C is reached. At this point, it’s ready; you can now add in the salt.

Caramel Frosting

So the cake is nearly finished but like Zena said, I have to up my game. The frosting, made using the caramel, adds another level of flavour to the cake.

  • 2oz cream cheese
  • 2oz butter
  • 2tbsp whipped cream
  • Icing sugar
  • Caramel

Combine the butter, cream cheese and whipped cream to the mixer and combine with the icing sugar using a ballon whisk.

To the mix add a healthy spoonful of the caramel and whisk till smooth.

Cake Time

Ok, its time to build the cake.

Start by removing the cakes from the tins and putting the base on a pretty serving plate. Top this with a healthy layer of whipped double cream and add the second cake.

To the top cake add a layer of the caramel frosting and get ready to flex your creative muscles.


Load up a fine piping bag or syringe with the remaining caramel and delicately ice fine lines of soft caramel across the top of the cake to create a base.

Now fill a large star nozzle piping bag with the remaining frosting and pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake and then a middle ring with a final flourish of a large centre rosette.


For the final touch add a droplet of caramel to the top of each rosette and a small delicious chunk of candied ginger too.

Time for Cake

Well thats it, a light but tasty spiced ginger cake with homemade caramel frosting. All that remains is to put the cake at the centre of attention and show it off. Then grab a cup of tea and put your feet up.



I’m about to start nights, but next week I’ll practice for the miniatures challenge………. Dobos Torte anyone 😉