Sunday 22 September 2019

Simon Delaney's Christmas special: Make or bake time


Simon Delaney's red velvet cake. Photo: Joanne Murphy
Simon Delaney's red velvet cake. Photo: Joanne Murphy
Simon Delaney's whoopie rounds. Photo: Joanne Murphy
Simply Simon's, The Diner Cookbook by Simon Delaney published by Black & White publishing at £16.99
Simon Delaney's blondie cupcakes. Photo: Joanne Murphy

From s'mores to blondies, Simon Delaney brings a festive touch to some American favourites

Festive red velvet cake

This is one of my favourite cakes of all time. It's the one I'll order if I see it on a diner menu. There are lots of theories about where this cake originated, some saying that it all started in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC.

Serves 8


For the cake:

250g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

40g cocoa powder

240ml vegetable oil

300g granulated sugar

2 large free-range eggs

2 tbsp red food colouring

½ tbsp vanilla extract

100ml coffee, cooled

240ml buttermilk

½ tbsp white wine vinegar

For the frosting:

175g unsalted butter, softened and diced

400g icing sugar

300g cream cheese


First things first: preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4), then grease your sandwich tins (we'll need three 8in tins). In a large bowl, sift the flour, a pinch of salt, the bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa powder and set aside. In another bowl, add the oil and the granulated sugar and, using an electric whisk, gently beat together until pale. This should take a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the red food colouring and the vanilla extract. Spoon in a third of the sifted flour mix, and mix together.

In a jug, mix together the cooled coffee and buttermilk, and add half to the mixing bowl. Beat this in, and then beat in half of the remaining flour. Stir the white wine vinegar into the remaining buttermilk-and-coffee mix, and pour into the cake mixture. Beat it in well, and then gently fold in the remaining flour.

Beat everything together well, then evenly divide between the three tins. Pop these into the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes. The best way to check if the cakes are cooked is to pop a skewer into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, you're good to go!

When the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven, pop them onto a wire rack and leave them to cool completely. Sometimes the cakes can be a little domed, which is all good; just slice off the domes to make the three sponges level, and keep these cutoffs for decoration later. (Or, if you're hungry, eat away!)

Now on to the cake frosting. So, in a bowl add the diced butter and, using your electric whisk again, beat until pale and creamy, which should take just a couple of minutes. Sift in the icing sugar, bit by bit, and beat it in well until smooth. Next add in the cream cheese: start with a large spoonful and beat it in, and then add the rest and beat it in. This takes a little elbow grease!

It'll start off looking very liquid and loose, but it'll come together and eventually appear light and whipped. Don't go heavy on whisking: nice and easy does it! When finished, let this mixture sit in the fridge for a while to allow it to firm up a little.

So now we're ready to put the cake together. On the first sponge, drop a spoon of the frosting and spread it evenly across. Pop the second layer of sponge on and repeat, and then add the third layer and do the same again. If the frosting spills out over the edges, don't panic: just use a spatula to cover the edges with frosting. You can go fancy and pipe the frosting on top, but to get that authentic diner feel, keep it rustic!

We've decorated with some cranberries and icing sugar here, but you can also sprinkle the offcuts over the cake. Then grab a big spoon and off you go…

Christmas blondie cupcakes

Simon Delaney's blondie cupcakes. Photo: Joanne Murphy

The baker in our house is my wife, Lisa, a brilliant baker, like her mam, Evelyn, and her sister, Karen (an amazing baker!). Lisa makes gingerbread men for the boys and cakes for occasions. I eat them. That's my contribution when it comes to baking in the Delaney house. But no more! Here's a recipe I can finally make! But don't tell anybody. I'm quite happy to continue my role as 'chief taster of baked goods' in the Delaney household…

Makes 16 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

175g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

175g golden caster sugar

175g unsalted butter

3 free-range eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

70g white chocolate chips

For the buttercream:

200g unsalted butter, softened

400g icing sugar

1 tbsp rose water

For the garnish:

Edible holly-leaf decorations

50g milk chocolate, grated, or 1 chocolate Flake, crumbled


Preheat your oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4). Get your muffin tray ready and pop the muffin cases in. We'll get about 16 from this batch.

In a bowl, sift the flour and the baking powder. Meanwhile, in a mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until creamy and white. Then, add the sifted flour, the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla extract, and keep mixing. When it's all mixed, fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the cake mix into the muffin cases and pop them in the oven to bake for between 15 and 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them and use a skewer to check and see if they're done. If it comes out clear, we're in the clear! When they're cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, let's make the buttercream. In a bowl, beat the butter and icing sugar together until creamy and smooth and a nice white colour. Add the rose water and mix through.

To serve, pipe the buttercream on top of each of the cupcakes, and finish with a holly leaf and a little chocolate.

S'mores whoopie rounds

Simon Delaney's whoopie rounds. Photo: Joanne Murphy

This is a great little dessert that will satisfy the little ones in the house. Truth be told, the bigger ones will love them too! Nice and easy to make, these are a great little party dessert and you can put your own touch on the finished dessert. A great little twist is to sprinkle the finished cakes with popping candy, then stand back and watch the kids' faces as they take a bite and the popping begins. Also, give one to Granny and don't tell her about the popping candy. Get your phone out and film her reaction. You'll be creating a YouTube classic…

Serves 6-8


1 packet of chocolate biscuits, or your favourite biscuits

100g dark chocolate (70pc cocoa)

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar


Preheat your grill to a medium heat. Place your biscuits of choice on a cooking tray. Grate the chocolate and sprinkle it over each biscuit. In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt until you have soft peaks, then add the sugar and continue to whisk until the mix has stiff peaks and is the consistency of a meringue.

Put the mix into a piping bag and attach a medium round nozzle. Pipe the meringue onto the biscuits in dots the size of a €2 coin, then grill until golden brown. Finish with some grated chocolate or popping candy. Lovely jubbly.

Chocolate roulade

There's always room for dessert. It's one of the many mantras I live my life by. Whether you've pushed your way through an entire three-course meal or just fancy swinging by a diner for a cup of joe and a slice of something sweet, there's always room.

Serves 8


175g dark chocolate

6 eggs, separated

175g caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

300ml double cream

Icing sugar (to dust)

Cranberries to garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4). Lightly grease a 13in x 9in tin, then line the base with greaseproof paper. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Then let it cool. Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until they're thick and creamy. Pour the cooled chocolate in and gently fold together until well combined. Stir 2 spoonfuls of the egg-white mixture into the chocolate mixture, to loosen the mixture. Then, fold in the remaining egg white mix.

Sift the cocoa powder in, and fold it in. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, making sure the mixture is level. Pop into the oven, and bake for around 20-25 minutes, until risen, and slightly firm to touch. Remove from the oven, and let the sponge cool in the baking tray.

Whip your cream, then turn the roulade out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Spread the cream mixture onto the roulade and roll into a sponge shape. The sponge will crack, so don't worry! Dust with icing sugar, and decorate with some cranberries or Christmas cake decorations for a festive dessert that all of the family will enjoy.

A Delaney Christmas tradition

A strong food memory for me as a child is Christmas. My mam loved Christmas, as do I. She loved the build-up, the presents, Santa, making the Christmas cake and so on, but especially the Christmas dinner: the turkey and ham with all the trimmings, followed by a trifle. But most of all, it was the meal we had on Christmas mornings that I remember the best. Coddle. Yep, a bowl of delicious Dublin coddle. For those of you not familiar with it, it's basically a clear stew, and everybody's version of it is different. My mother's had sausages, bacon rashers (cut into bite-sized pieces) and an onion. If my grandmother (she was originally from Derry) came over, she would add barley, which is an old-fashioned ingredient that was used in a coddle. My wife, Lisa, and I have our version of coddle, which has all of the above, minus the barley (sorry, Nana). We add potatoes, and we use ham pieces and bacon ribs. Delish. To this very day, my sisters cook a coddle every Christmas morning as a nod to our mam and dad and Christmases past. Any time I smell a coddle cooking, it immediately transports me back to Christmas morning.

Photography: Joanne Murphy

Food styling: Orla Neligan

Assisted by: Clare Wilkinson

Weekend Magazine

Editors Choice

Also in Life