Friday, November 05, 2010


The 4 litres of limoncello I made in July ready for Christmas have now mostly been drunk. To be honest it only takes three weeks to make so I was a bit ahead of myself really and anyway I needed the bottles emptying so they could be ready again for this new batch.
I work on an equal quantities method (equal sugar to water for the syrup then equal syrup to vodka) but you can adjust yours, even each bottle, depending on how you like it and who you're giving it too. I serve mine with Prosecco, Kir Royale style before lunch and with ice after dinner.
Makes 2 litres
1 litre of basic vodka
5 unwaxed (preferably organic) lemons
500g caster sugar
500g boiling water

1 Peel the lemons using a swivel-style peeler. Scrape off any white pith, turn the radio on and sit comfortably at the kitchen table as this bit does take ages but it's very important as the pith will make the limoncello taste bitter.

2 Place the peel in a 2 litre kilner jar and pour in the vodka. Leave in a cupboard for a week, shaking the jar every day.

3 Put the sugar in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water, stir until the sugar dissolves then leave until completely cool.

4 Stir the syrup into the vodka, seal the lid and leave for at least another two weeks, again shaking every day or two if you remember. Taste the limoncello at this stage and sweeten with more syrup or top up more vodka as suits your taste then strain into bottles. Pop one in the fridge and keep the rest on the shelf or give as gifts.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Suddenly Baby turned one this week. Don't know how it happened so quickly but there we are. As she doesn't have any friends yet, she had to have her cake in the middle of Scrap's Hallowe'en party, in amongst the bats and the eyeball jellies. Not that she noticed.
This is a good chocolate cake for kids as it's very light and not actually very chocolatey and I find that it suits those below five better that way. It's basically a big red velvet cupcake but a lot easier and without all the unnecessary red food colouring.

Serves 18 - 20
300g caster sugar
120g butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
280ml carton of buttermilk
25g cocoa powder
300ml plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tbsp wine vinegar
sprinkles, to decorate
600g icing sugar
150g butter
200g soft cheese
75g milk chocolate, chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas 3. Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and butter together until soft and pale - this takes a while and once you've had enough of whisking add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla and buttermilk then cocoa and flour. Add the bicarb and vinegar and whisk again for a couple of minutes until light and voluminous.

2 Divide between three buttered and lined 20cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes. Lift onto wire racks and leave to cool.

3 Whisk together the icing sugar and butter - I find it easier to add the icing sugar a bit at a time so the whole kitchen doesn't get coated in a fine layer of dust. Once it's well beaten, add the soft cheese and whisk again - don't over beat at this stage or the icing can start to over-soften.

4 Take a third of the mixture and stir in the chopped ch0colate, use this to sandwhich the cakes toegther then swirl the rest of the icing all over. Decorate with sprinkles (I cut a heart out of a piece of paper and used as a template) and leave to set. Happy Birthday!