Friday 17 November 2017

sweet thoughts

Nothing can beat the irresistible aroma of home baking, says Brenda Costigan, who has chosen a mouth-watering selection of her favourite cakes and treats for you to try

Brenda Costigan

A home-baked cake is always a treat and I am especially fond of the cakes listed here. They are easy to bake, easy to eat and very nutritious. On a cold day, there's no better excuse to turn on the oven. The aroma of home baking that wafts through the house is so comforting and attractive for anyone coming in.

Meanwhile, it is worth considering that the most efficient way to use the oven heat is to bake a number of items -- if not all at one time, then at least in quick succession.



The sharp flavour of the raspberries is delightful with the almond shortbread mixture. Frozen raspberries are very successful in this recipe: allow them to thaw before using them, but don't let them get too soft and wet.

You will need:

250g (9oz) self-raising flour

50g (2oz) ground almonds

225g (8oz) butter, diced

250g (9oz) caster sugar

1 large egg

350-450g (12-16oz) frozen raspberries, thawed

75g (3oz) chopped almonds

Cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

Lightly grease a baking tray, 23cm x 33cm (9in x 13in).

Put the self-raising flour and the ground almonds into a food processor, then add the diced butter and the caster sugar and buzz for a few seconds until the texture of the mixture becomes like breadcrumbs. Remove 175g (6oz) of the mixture and put it to one side. Add the egg to the remaining mixture and buzz quickly again. The resulting mixture will be rather crumbly.

Scatter this mixture over the base of the tin, ensuring that you spread it out evenly. Pat it down to make a solid layer of base with no holes.

Next, spread the thawed raspberries all over the base, but leave a narrow margin free all around the edge.

Mix the chopped almonds through the mixture you have put to one side, and then scatter this mixture over the rasperries and base in an even layer.

Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, reducing the temperature to 170°C, 325°F, Gas 3, halfway through if it's necessary. Cool the raspberry and almond bake in the tin, standing it on a wire tray.

Serve cut into squares, with cream or ice cream if you wish.


These are delicious and so easy to make. The addition of Rice Krispies and fruit to the oatmeal mixture gives a delightful, light crunchiness to what is normally a very dense oatmeal mixture.

You will need:

150g (5oz) butter or margarine

75g (3oz) light brown sugar

75g (3oz) honey or golden syrup

250g (9oz) porridge oats

75g (3oz) raisins or sultanas

50g (2oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped

50g (2oz) Rice Krispies

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5.

Grease a 23cm x 33cm (9in x 13in) baking tray.

Put the butter or margarine, whichever you're using, into a saucepan and add the light brown sugar. Then add the honey or the golden syrup, whichever you're using, and melt everything together over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Then remove from the heat and let it cool a little.

In a bowl, mix together the porridge oats, and the raisins or the sultanas, whichever you're using, along with the chopped dried apricots and the Rice Krispies. Then add the melted ingredients to the bowl, stirring everything well. Spread the mixture into the tin and bake it for about 15-25 minutes until it turns golden brown. Cool in the tin, or on a wire tray. Once it's cold, cut it into squares or fingers.


A delightfully moist cake. Sweetened lemon juice is drizzled over the cake after baking. The blueberries will sink, which is why we add only half to the cake mixture and sprinkle the other half over the top of the cake mixture before putting it in the oven.

For the cake, you will need:

225g (8oz) butter, softened to room temperature

225g (8oz) light brown sugar

4 medium eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

½ teaspoonful almond essence

Zest 1 lemon, finely chopped

50g (2oz) ground almonds

Juice 1 lemon

125ml (4½ oz) carton blueberries

Whipped cream, to serve (optional)

For the syrup, you will need:

50g (2oz) caster sugar

Juice 1½ lemons

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

Line the base of a round, non-stick cake tin 20.5cm (8in) in diameter with some baking parchment.

Cream the softened butter and the light brown sugar together until they become soft and light. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the self-raising flour with the addition of each egg. Beat in the almond essence and the finely chopped lemon zest.

Mix the remaining self-raising flour with the ground almonds and stir into the mixture. Then stir in the lemon juice. The consistency of the mixture should now be such that it will drop easily from a spoon when the spoon is tapped.

Finally, stir half the blueberries through the mixture, then spoon it into the prepared tin. Spread the mixture out evenly and scatter the remaining blueberries over the top.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, reducing the temperature to 170°C, 325°F, Gas 3, halfway through, especially if the cake seems to be getting too brown on top. Meanwhile, make the syrup by mixing the caster sugar and lemon juice together. Leave this mixture to stand while baking the cake, and the sugar will dissolve during this time. Or, you can heat the mixture gently in a saucepan to dissolve the sugar more quickly and then allow the syrup to cool.

As soon as the baked cake comes out of the oven, prick the top of it all over with a skewer and drizzle the syrup over the holes. Stand the cake -- still in the tin -- on a wire tray to allow it to cool.

When the cake is cold, take it out of the tin, remove the lining paper, and cut the cake into wedges. For a special treat, serve with some whipped cream.


The fruit and nuts give great flavour and texture to this easy-to-cook cake.

You will need:

225g (8oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, roughly chopped

Juice 1 orange

75g (3oz) butter

110g (4oz) dried figs, chopped

110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) hazelnuts, skinned and chopped

50g (2oz) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large egg, beaten

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5.

Grease a round 20cm (8in) sandwich tin with a little butter and line the base with a circle of baking parchment.

Set aside 50g (2oz) of the chopped dried apricots and put the rest into a saucepan. Put the orange juice into a measuring jug and add water to make up to 225ml (8fl oz). Pour over the apricots. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook gently for five minutes until the apricots have plumped up.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then tip it into a food processor and buzz for a few seconds to make a thick sauce. Measure this and, if necessary, add a little water to bring it back up to 350ml (12fl oz). Put this sauce back into the saucepan, add the butter and stir over the heat until the butter melts.

Take off the heat and stir in the reserved chopped dried apricots, the chopped dried figs, the sultanas, the skinned, chopped hazelnuts and the light brown sugar. When the mixture has cooled sufficently, mix in the lemon juice and the beaten egg. Then sift the self-raising flour, the baking powder and the cinnamon into the fruit mixture, stirring well. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 25 minutes until browned on top, then reduce the temperature to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4 and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes until the cake is cooked through. Leave to cool in the tin, standing on a wire tray. Cut into slices to serve.


I recently came across a recipe that used mashed bananas in a carrot and pineapple cake, so I tried adding them to my recipe. It gives a nice smoothness to the mixture. I love the crunch that the walnuts give to this cake.

For the cake, you will need:

175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil

175g (6oz) light brown sugar

3 large eggs

2 small, ripe bananas, not over-ripe, mashed

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

175g (6oz) carrot, grated

3 rings tinned pineapple, drained and chopped

50-110g (2-4oz) walnuts, chopped

For the icing, you will need:

100g (3½oz) light cream cheese

175g (6oz) icing sugar

1-2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

Line the base and sides of a round, non-stick cake tin 23cm (9in) in diameter with baking parchment.

Mix together the sunflower oil, the light brown sugar, the eggs, the mashed bananas and the vanilla essence. Into another bowl sift the self-raising flour, along with the cinnamon and the nutmeg. Then stir the moist mixture into this dry mixture, and then add the grated carrot, the chopped tinned pineapple and the chopped walnuts. Mix well with a wooden spoon to make an even batter. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the cake is cooked through. Allow to cool. Soften the cream cheese by stirring it in a mixing bowl. Beat in the icing sugar and the orange juice until the mixture has a soft consistency. Spread this icing over the cooled cake.


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