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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Chocolate Mud and Caramel Easter Cake

This Easter Waitrose are encouraging people to be ‘Good Eggs’.  During the Easter school holidays, Waitrose are asking people to share their Easter photos on social media - from all the delicious food they’re enjoying to fun Easter egg hunts with the kids – using the hashtag #GoodEgg to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Throughout the initiative, Waitrose will be surprising and delighting lucky participants with Easter gifts, including Heston’s Golden Easter Eggs, hampers, cases of wine, Waitrose vouchers and Waitrose Cookery School vouchers.

Waitrose will also be making a charitable donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, as well as delivering chocolate eggs for the children to enjoy at their Easter party.

For ideas, inspiration and recipes, Waitrose have created a dedicated Easter section online to help you plan the perfect Easter and have a Kids Easter ideas page here which has step by step guides to creating your own DIY Easter eggs and other edible Easter treats.

I decided to bake a 4 layer Chocolate Mud and Caramel Easter Cake which my children dubbed the Epic Easter Cake when they saw it after they had arrived home from school and spied the cake on our kitchen counter.

The cake is best served in thin slices as it is very rich and a proper sugar rush.  I was thankful that the weather was good as I sent the kids outside to play after taste testing as it was like rocket fuel as an after school snack.

Chocolate Mud Easter Cake

225g butter, cubed
360g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Green and Blacks)
165g light soft brown sugar
180ml water
150g plain flour
35g self raising flour
2 Tblsp cocoa powder
2 medium free range eggs

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.  Grease and line a 22cm/9 inch cake tin, ensuring the paper comes 2 inches/5cm above the top edge of the cake tin.

Combine the butter, chocolate, sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool this mixture until it reaches room temperature.  Mix in the flours, cocoa and eggs.  

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes to half an hour before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Split the cake horizontally into 4 layers. Alternate ganache and caramel between layers, finishing with ganache on the top of the cake.

Chocolate Ganache

300g dark chocolate, I used Green and Blacks
200ml double cream

Put the cream in a saucepan over a moderate heat. Heat until almost boiling, remove from the heat and stir through the chocolate until a smooth mixture forms. Leave the ganache to cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency.


50g butter or margarine
50g light muscavado sugar
1 x 397g tin condensed milk

Measure the butter and sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the condensed milk and stir until completely combined.  Bring the mixture to the boil.  As soon as the mixture boils turn the heat right down so the mixture simmers very slowly.  Ensure you stir the mixture continuously.  Heat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool until it is a spreadable consistency.  

** I was compensated for my time and expertise devising this recipe for Waitrose **

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns

I always make our Hot Cross Buns and enjoy tinkering with flavours to make even tastier buns.  This time I decided to make Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns, they were delicious and very moreish.

My children took them to school as their baked treat and I did have several kids and parents asking for the buns or the recipe so they were rather popular.

Apple and Fudge Hot Cross Buns

This recipe makes 12 Hot Cross Buns.

250ml/1 cup warm water
2 Tblsp caster sugar
1 sachets instant yeast 
375g/2.5 cups plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
80g bag small fudge chunks
100g dried apple, chopped finely
25 g softened butter
1 free range egg

You can make these buns by hand or using a stand mixer.  

Stir the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the instant yeast and mix in the dried fruit, then make a well in the centre. 

Pour in the water, add the eggs and the softened butter. Mix until combined with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a floured bench and knead the dough lightly. 

This is a fairly moist dough so add extra flour if you need to during the kneading process. Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it’s smooth.

Or put all the dry ingredients and the dried fruit mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. 

Start the stand mixer on a low speed to mix the dry ingredients before slowly adding the water, eggs and softened butter. Knead on a low speed until everything is well combined and then knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with greased cling film. Leave in a warm place till dough doubles in size, this should take around 45 minutes. 

I usually leave the dough to rise in my stand mixer as it has a handy plastic cover that seals the bowl and provides the perfect place for the dough to rise. Be careful though, if you leave the dough to rise for too long it may overflow your mixer bowl.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and then give it a quick knead. Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape into buns. Put the shaped bunnies onto a greased oven tray and cover with the greased cling film. Leave them to rise for around half an hour, whilst your oven preheats to 200C, and until they’ve doubled in size.

Top the Hot Cross Buns with crosses made by combining:

1/4 cup/40g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder 
1 Tblsp butter
2 or 3 Tblsp of water

I make the crosses mixture whilst the buns are rising. Mix the butter with some hot water so that it melts and combines. Leave for about 10 minutes to cool and then mix into the flour and baking powder.

The mixture needs to be soft enough to be piped but not too runny, add a little extra flour or water to if necessary to get a good consistency. If you haven't got a piping bag, put the mixture into a plastic bag, squeeze it down to one corner then snip a tiny bit off the corner of the bag. Squeeze the mix through the hole making crosses on the top of each bun.

Bake the buns at 200°C for 15 minutes then brush with sugar glaze and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

To make the Sugar Glaze dissolve 2 Tbsp Sugar in ¼ cup (60ml) warm water.

Cool the Hot Cross Buns on a wire rack and then either eat them, give them to friends or freeze them for later in a sealed, airtight bag.