Upside down [boy you turn me]

It seems everywhere I turn there is an upside down cake being made and consumed. I have always wanted to make tarte tat in but when I saw this dish on, once again Lorraine Pascale’s cooking show, I had to give it a go. I was going to have a break from baking for a little while to concentrate on new jobs and the PhD, but then I went out to dinner. Now I’ve never really been a fan of banoffee, taking two perfectly good flavours and then combining them to create something that has never quite made me want to devour it completely, just seemed a waste of experimental baking time. But then I had the banoffee pie at gourmet pizza in Gabriel’s Wharf, and I’ve clearly grown up, it works! And not only does it work I want more of it, so whilst this cake isn’t banoffee pie, it does use the basic flavour combination. Incidentally I tried whisky again in the same evening, and it wasn’t awful, which for those of you who know me well, will recognize this comment as a departure from my usual description of any kind of whisky as lighter fluid. What a good evening, and it led me to make this (recipe taken from Lorraine Pascale):


The topping

  • 50g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 50g soft light brown sugar

The sponge

  • handful of pecan nuts
  • 150g soft butter
  • 175g soft light brown
  • 4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
  • ½ vanilla pod (or a couple of drops of vanilla extract)
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 75g whole meal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • pinch of salt


  • 2 small, firm bananas


You will need a 20cm (8in) square cake tin or equivalent tray bake tin, for example 24cm x 20cm x 5cm (9 ½ in x 8in x 2in). Preheat the oven to 180°C, (fan 160°C), 350°F, gas mark 4, with the middle shelf at the ready. Grease and line the cake tin with baking parchment and grease again.

First, make the sticky topping. Place the butter and soft light brown sugar in a small pan over a medium heat. Once the butter is melted, turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes until it begins to thicken slightly. Stir it frequently so it does not catch on the bottom. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the lined tin and tip the tin back and forth to spread it out evenly (the mixture will eventually solidify in the tin so make sure to spread it out now). Next, tip the pecans onto a baking tray, with a knob of butter and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pecan nuts from the oven once toasted and set aside to cool.

Now, make the sponge mixture. Cream together the butter and the sugar in a large bowl, by hand or with a hand-held electric whisk (or freestanding electric mixer) until it becomes a little lighter in colour. Then add the eggs one at time, beating hard between each addition. Split the vanilla pod open, scrape the seeds out and add (or add the vanilla extract). Then fold in both flours, the baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, golden syrup and salt and set aside.

Take the bananas and slice them into 5mm (1/4 in) thick pieces. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the tin. I line them up so they are nice and straight, but of course it is fine to do them in any old order too. Pack them all in tight so they don’t move around once the cake mix goes over, it should look like this:

Bananas in harmony

Roughly chop the pecan nuts and stir them through the cake mix. Now carefully dollop the cake mix over the bananas and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon or with a palette knife, levelling the top to look like this:

Looks a bit like polyfiller, thankfully doesn’t taste like it.

Then pop it onto a baking tray and into the oven for about 35–45 minutes or so to cook.

After the cake has been cooking for 35 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and insert a metal skewer or the blade of a small knife right into the centre (but not touching the bottom). It should come out completely clean. If there is some cakey gooeyness left on it, just pop the tin back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Then put a large flat plate over the top of the tin and, holding the tin and the plate, flip the whole lot over so that the tin is now upside down. Gently remove the tin and peel off the baking parchment to reveal your very tasty dulce and banana underneath, voila:


It was a pretty large cake, so whilst a considerable chunk was destined to be a present for the dinner companion, I cut the rest into individual pieces and distributed amongst the museum lovelies to an overall positive response. The rest was placed in the coffee table Tupperware, and seems to have gone down, so I assume this is a positive response from the housemates too. Its great because its quite a versatile cake, you can have it hot or cold, and once warmed up again is lovely with some cream or toffee sauce. A cake for everyone, except perhaps those with nut allergies.


Departures with a twist


This weekend one of the housemates is moving out, he is off to Thailand to teach English, and whilst I am very proud of him for shaking his life up and going off to do something exciting on the other side of the world, I will miss him. Especially because he is the chief consumer of my kitchen experiments. So we organised a surprise BBQ for him in addition to his big leaving do and so of course I had to make a cake. For a while I have wanted to make Wagamama’s Chocolate and Wasabi fudge cake, I absolutely love it, especially the unusual flavour combination. As the housemate is heading to Asia, what a perfect excuse to make an Asian desert. Wagamama’s don’t publish the recipe, not even in their cookbook, which I own, so I turned to the Internet, and found this. So using her recipe, I adapted the topping section, and this is the final recipe I used:




For the cake


400g plain flour


250g caster sugar


100g brown sugar


75g cocoa powder


2 tsp baking powder


1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


½ tsp salt


3 eggs


1 150g tub Total 0% Greek Yoghurt


1 tbsp vanilla extract


175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled


300ml ice water


For the Wasabi fudge icing in the middle of the cake


50g dark chocolate


125g unsalted butter


137g icing sugar


1/2 tbsp vanilla extract


1 tsp Wasabi paste, (to taste)


For the Wasabi fudge icing on the outside of the cake

100g white chocolate


250g unsalted butter


275g icing sugar


1 tbsp vanilla extract


1-2 tsp Wasabi paste, (to taste)




1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas 4. Butter and line with greaseproof paper the bottom of two 20 cm sandwich tins.


2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, sugars, baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda.


3. In a large jug whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Add melted butter and ice water.


4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and beat in well.


5. Divide the batter between the two prepared tins and bake the cake for 50 – 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.


6. Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes, if you try to ice it before it’s cool your icing will melt and become greasy.


7. To make the icing, melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.


8. In another bowl beat the butter until soft and creamy and combine the sifted icing sugar. Beat until smooth and then add the cooled chocolate, vanilla and Wasabi. Beat until smooth and glossy, check the strength of the Wasabi and add more if necessary. I liked it to have a distinct heat!


9. Repeat for the white chocolate topping.


10. Use the dark chocolate icing to sandwich the cake together and place on a cake stand to ice the top and sides of the cake with the white chocolate icing.


The cake came out nicely and sandwiched together well with the first venture into dark chocolate wasabi butter cream.


I made the white chocolate wasabi butter cream the next day, and being a little impatient didn’t wait long enough for the white chocolate to cool, thus curdling the butter. So I did it all again, being patient this time and it worked perfectly…it just didn’t taste like wagamamas. After icing, I added some edible letters to wish the housemate good luck.

The cake was served to Take That’s ‘Back for Good’, which anyone who has seen the last episode of Spaced will understand. The verdict seemed altogether positive, although it was commented that it was a little rich. I definitely want to try this again, as the wagamamas cake is a lot lighter, and fudgier and there is something different about the icing. I think first a trip to wagamamas may be in order. Stay tuned to see how this experiment develops.


Birthdays and odd combinations

On Thursday my mum’s partner Steve turned 60. On Saturday we are all trundling down to the Sussex countryside to celebrate, and I’m in charge of the cake!! I was to be quite honest a little excited, with no parameters other than its not to be decorated I could do anything. Well Steve is known for his love of unusual food combinations. One Easter we had a fantastic Mayan chilli chocolate cake in the shape of a Mayan temple. Last Christmas was every kind of local berry gin you could imagine. So inspired by the chilli and the fruit I decided I wanted to make a chilli chocolate cake but, as Steve doesn’t have a big sweet tooth, with some fruit in it. So googling away I came across this. I figured I could just adapt it to make it into a cake. Now I’m known a little for my kitchen disasters as much as my baking (tempura vegetables, a very desperate chocolate finger house cake using kinder chocolate, the list goes on) so having little time to practice I decided to make a mini version of the cake, as I went along in order to make sure it tasted great and worked out.

Mango Mousse

  • 4 cups Mango Puree
  • 2 each Thai Chili, split
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 12 Gelatin Sheets
  • 2 qt Heavy Cream

Mango Gel

  • 1 ¾ cup Mango Puree
  • ¾ cup Water
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 2 sheets Gelatin

Chocolate Cake

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

So following the recipe I made the cake on Thursday night. Mini cake alongside, and its tasted great, so far so good. I substituted buttermilk for yoghurt, as I can never find it in the supermarket, and I’m not sure they even have it in this country.

Preheat the oven to 165 Celsius. Butter a round deep cake tin with a removable bottom. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well blended but do not over mix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool.

So Friday night came and time for the complicated bits. I followed the recipe for the Mango gel and mousse, simultaneously following another recipe for the instructions on how to make the mousse:

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove from the heat. Add the gelatin, which will dissolve immediately.

Peel and coarsely dice the mango and place in a liquidiser with the juice and zest of half orange. Reduce to a purée.

Place the cream in a large bowl and whisk to ribbon stage.

Add the syrup/gelatin and whisk in.

With a metal spoon, beat in the mango purée.

Layer mousse- about 1” inch thick and smooth out with rubber spatula. Pour room temperature gel. Make gel while cake is cooling so you can pour it over the mousse it a liquid state. Allow to set at least 2-4 hours. Best results if allowed to rest overnight.

And this is what I ended up with.


It survived a train journey to mums and being taken out of the cake tin, and although the topping did leak down the side of the cake a little, I was happy with it for a first try, and the verdict was YUM!


Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra

20th August

Arriving home the other night I wandered into the lounge to find the housemate watching the TV as per usual. Distracted by his online poker he had left the TV on BBC and Lorraine Pascale’s Fast Fresh and Easy Food was starting. I sat transfixed for the next 30 mins, apparently breaking silence to mutter ‘ooo I could give that a go’ or ‘ooo we could have that for your leaving do’. But what inspired me the most was her ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra’ cake, which I decided to make this week. The recipe wasn’t available online and I hadn’t thought to write it down, so I made a basic sponge cake recipe:


2 medium eggs

75g caster sugar

75g self-raising flour

Heat oven to 180ºC, 350ºF, Gas Mark 4. Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) cake tin.

I whizzed all this together in the food processer and poured it into a freezer bag and tied it at the end. I then made the mixture again but put on 65g of self-raising flour, and 10g of sifted cocoa powder in. Whizzed again and into another freezer bag.

This is where it gets messy, snip the corners of each freezer bag, and picking one colour, pipe a circle into the middle of the cake tin. Then using the other colour pipe another circle into that. Continue, alternating colours until the tin is full, you will probably have some mix left over. It should look like this:

Before the oven


Pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Cool and eat. I added a layer of butter cream onto the top of the cake as I thought it was bit dry. The cake tasted good but was strangely bouncy; perhaps I will try with plain flour and baking powder next time.

A zebra in a cake?!