Tuesday 12 December 2017

Donal Skehan: Don't fake it, Bake it!

You’ll never buy a cake again after making these easy, sticky treats, says Donal Skehan


Donal SKehan

Earlier this year, many food writers made their predictions for 2011's hottest food trends, and one of the big things mentioned again and again was the rise in popularity of home baking.

Rather than trying to find something to topple the mighty cupcake, baking in general is being made cool again.

Things have changed for this age-old art, which was once the domain of every good housewife. Cupcakes are probably to blame -- the Irish weren't going to stay satisfied with fairy cakes and some gammy icing while our American neighbours were gorging on rainbow-coloured cakes that looked as if they came from the set of 'Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory'.

Gone are the days when only those with a certain level of baking skill could make the perfect cake. Now, everyone wants to give it a go, and more people are trying a spot of home baking.

The process is totally enjoyable, and the end result is a sweet, sticky, gooey piece of something that will bring a smile to anyone's face.

The recipes here represent a good range of baking and should give you more than a nice taster in home baking. Everyone needs a really good cake recipe for birthdays and special occasions, and I hope that my chocolate cake with white-chocolate and cream-cheese frosting will become your go-to cake recipe.

Monkey bubble bread is my New York discovery -- it's sweet, gooey and delicious. And to keep old-school bakers happy, the lemon drizzle should tick the boxes.

Whichever one you choose to try, I hope it gets those creative baking juices flowing, because baking is back, baby!


Makes one loaf.


55g butter

200ml milk

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

55g caster sugar

A good pinch of salt

375g plain flour

For the coating

110g/4oz butter, melted

90g/3½oz dark brown sugar

2 tbsps cinnamon

A good handful of pecans


Grease and flour a bundt tin or a cake tin. Melt the butter gently in a large pot on a low heat and then add the milk. When the mixture is lukewarm, remove from the heat and add the dried yeast, sugar and salt. Mix the flour in with a wooden spoon, little by little, until you are left with a thick dough.

When the dough has taken shape and is no longer sticky, turn it out on to a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Leave the dough to rise in the bowl in a warm place, covered, for 45 minutes.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and then push it into a rectangle and slice it up into squares. Roll the squares into little dough balls and set aside. For the coating, place the melted butter in one bowl and the sugar and cinnamon in another. Dip each ball in the melted butter and then toss them in the sugar mix. Layer the dough balls in the bunt tin with the pecan nuts until filled.

Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes, or until they rise and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

These cakes are light and zesty. They’re

also a nice alternative for those who

don't particularly love heavy baking.


Makes 30 slices.


225g caster sugar

250g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 large free-range eggs

225g butter, at room temperature

3 tbsps milk

Zest of 3 lemons

For the lemon drizzle

200g icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon


Pre-heat the oven to 160°C. Line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well with the back of a spoon. Add the eggs, butter, milk and zest and beat with a hand mixer until well combined for about two minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin, place in the oven on the middle rack and cook for 35 minutes until golden brown on top and risen. Turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

Whisk together the ingredients for the drizzle and spread over the top of the cooled lemon cake. Slice into 30 pieces.


The beauty of this recipe is that it's simply a case of combining wet and dry ingredients to create a light yet fudgy chocolate cake. Serves eight to 12.


350g self-raising flour

5 tbsps cocoa powder

2 tsps bicarbonate soda

300g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs, beaten

300ml sunflower oil

300ml semi-skimmed milk

4 tbsps golden syrup

For the frosting

400g good-quality white chocolate

220g butter, at room temperature

450g cream cheese

440g icing sugar, sifted


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line two cake tins with a removable base with parchment paper. Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl of a stand-alone mixer. Add the sugar and mix well.

Measure the wet ingredients in a measuring jug. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the contents of the jug. Beat together in the mixer until you are left with a smooth mixture. Spoon the cake batter into the lined tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before transferring to a wire rack until completely cool.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate in a bowl placed on top of a saucepan filled with a little water boiling over a low heat. Remove from the heat to cool for about 10 minutes. Place the butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat until fluffy and combined.

Mix through the melted white chocolate and then gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar until you have a smooth, spreadable mixture.

Slice the the cake layers in half horizontally and then place one on a cake stand and spread over a little of the frosting. Repeat this with all the layers of the cake until it is assembled. If you want, you can spread the frosting on the outside of the cake too.

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