Tag Archives: compote


Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

A well made classic Victoria Sponge is a thing of beauty, although I have to confess that I do always have to have cream or buttercream in my filling (sorry Women’s Institute).
It’s all about the texture. It should be light and springy with a nice even crumb so be careful that you don’t over beat the batter. In a traditional Victoria Sponge you also rely solely on the quality of your ingredients for the flavour so I always use real butter rather than baking margarine and I always try to find fresh free-range eggs. I only ever use free-range anyway but if you can get locally reared ones then 9 times out of 10 they’ll be richer than anything you buy in the supermarkets. They’ll also give your sponge great colour.
I find that I get the best results when I let all of my ingredients get up to room temperature before I start.
American self-rising flour does seem to be a tiny bit different to U.K self-raising flour but this recipe should work fine with both.

Classic Victoria sponge

If you want to make the classic Victoria Sponge then just leave out the orange zest from the sponge, sandwich it together with good quality jam (usually strawberry or raspberry) and dust the top with a little sugar.

classic Victoria sponge

serves 10-12

Orange sponge
3 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry compote
70g ish cranberries (mine were frozen)
30g sugar
juice of 1 orange

Swiss meringue buttercream
1 egg white
50g sugar
70g butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the baking powder and flour a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them, one at a time, into the butter and sugar. Follow each addition with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Once you have added all of the eggs briefly beat in the orange zest. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins (I actually weigh mine) and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door during this time as you might cause them to sink in the middle. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Let them become completely cool before you fill them.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Make the compote by combining the sugar, cranberries and the juice of the orange in a small saucepan. Pop this over a moderate heat and let it gently bubble away for a few minutes. Mash the berries a bit to release their juice, but be careful as they tend to pop and you don’t want them to splatter you with hot juice. Once the juice is thick and syrupy you can leave the compote to cool and become a bit jammy.
Swiss Meringue buttercream is next on your to-do list. Put the egg white and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk it to keep it moving whilst it heats, it needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is stiff (like meringue) and cool. An electric mixer makes this pretty quick and easy. Once it is cool you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. If the mixture is too warm then the butter will simply melt so make sure it’s cool before you start. You can pop it in the fridge for a few minutes if you need to. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy and then mix through the orange zest.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Decide which of your cakes is the least pretty and place it, upside-down, on a serving plate. Spread the cold cranberry compote onto it and the follow this with the orange Swiss meringue buttercream. I prefer to pipe this but to be honest it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the way it tastes!
Carefully place on the top layer of cake and then sprinkle it with a little icing sugar as a finishing touch.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge



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Biscuits with blueberry and black pepper compote

Our most recent road-trip adventure took us in a southerly direction to Tennessee (amongst other places). Now, I’m not going to lie to you, during this road trip I ate A LOT of biscuits (the US sort not the UK sort). I think I must have had one everyday. I’ve been doing double P.E at the gym to make amends ever since! Some were good, some were like stale hockey pucks but hands-down the most delicious ones were at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in Knoxville TN. They were so light and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I had to look up how to make them as soon as I got home. If I become morbidly obese I’m going to blame the internet for allowing me to find out this recipe. Thinking about it maybe Mr Colonial Cravings needs to set up some sort of filter on my laptop.
The reason, I found out, that their biscuits taste so amazing is that they’re made with cream. It seems so obvious now I know! Because, and I know we’re never supposed to mention this, fat makes food taste great.

blueberry & black pepper biscuits
Tupelo Honey Cafe advise using a particular type of self-rising flour but I never have self-raising flour in the pantry so I used plain four with some raising agents. Also I want to be able to make these when I move back to the UK and our self-raising flour works differently to American self-rising flour. Or at least in my experience it does.
So this is my version of those deliciously fluffy biscuits. You say rip-off, I say tribute. Po-tay-to-Po-tah-to.
You obviously don’t have to include the black pepper if the idea scares you at all but I think it adds a nice little bit of warmth to the flavour and perks up the blueberries. I’ve also kept these deliberately small in the interests of portion control but you can of course make them as thick and as big as you like, just adjust the baking time accordingly.

Biscuits with blueberry and black pepper compote

Makes 20 ish

300g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
60g very cold butter
100ml cream
150ml buttermilk
black pepper and extra melted butter

125g blueberries
juice of 1/2 lemon
scant tbsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Biscuits with blueberry and black pepper compote

Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and brush a cake tin with a little melted butter. Baking these in something with quite deep sides will really help to support the biscuits as they rise.
Sift together the flour and raising agents into a large mixing bowl and then mix through the salt and sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and lightly rub it through the flour. It doesn’t have to be too uniform.
Add the cream and buttermilk, a bit at a time as you may not need all of it and bring it all together to form a soft dough. Don’t over mix the dough or you’ll get tough biscuits. I use a fork to mix it so that my hands don’t warm up the mixture either.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out to about 1/2″ thick. Fold it in half and then pat it out again. Fold it one more time and pat it out again so that it’s 1/2″ thick. Stamp out 2″ rounds using a pastry cutter. It’s very important that you don’t twist the cutter though. Put the biscuits in the buttered cake tin, it’s okay for them to touch. Brush the tops with a little extra melted butter, sprinkle with black pepper and bake for 15-20 minutes. Once they are all puffed up and golden you can let them cool a touch before devouring them whilst they’re still a bit warm.

blueberry & black pepper biscuits

For the compote use a small saucepan to combine all of the ingredients. Gently simmer them until the juices begin to thicken and become syrupy. Try not to stir the compote too much, you don’t want to mush up the fruit. Leave the compote to cool completely before serving it with the biscuits so that juices are syrupy when they soak into the tender crumb of the biscuits.

Biscuits with blueberry and black pepper compote

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We Brits certainly do love to use bread in a dessert. Bread and butter pudding, bread pudding (yes, they’re two different things,) queen of puddings, treacle tart and of course summer pudding.
My mum used to make this quite a lot, often using using home-grown blackcurrants, when she managed to beat the birds to the ripe ones anyway. I’m not a big fan of blackcurrants so I use blueberries instead which makes this dessert a little less tart.
Bread in America is, for some reason, sweet. This makes it a bit weird for toast and Vegemite but really good for this recipe. Elsewhere in the world you can just use ordinary, shop-bought sliced white bread, preferably a day or two old.
This is one of those desserts that looks like it requires far more effort than it actually does. I do love a recipe like that!


makes 4 individual puddings

500g mixed berries (frozen is fine)
150g sugar
6 tbsp water
big squeeze of lemon juice
10-12 slices white bread

Combine all the ingredients except the bread in a medium saucepan. Let the pan sit over a moderate heat for a few minutes to lightly poach the fruit and release their juices. Use a slotted spoon to lift the fruit from the pan and set it aside. Allow the remaining liquid to bubble for a few minutes more until it thickens and becomes a tiny bit syrupy. Leave this to cool a bit.
Line your pudding basins with cling film. Remove the crusts from the bread and cut the slices so that they will snugly line the pudding basins. It’s okay if the edges overhang a bit, you can fold them over to cover the base. A cookie cutter is idea for the tops.

Dip one side of each piece of bread into the juice and place them, juice side down into the pudding basins. Once the pudding basin is completely lined with bread simply spoon in the fruit. Add a little of the juice and fold over any overhanging pieces of bread so the the pudding is sealed. Do this for all of the puddings, finishing them off by spooning over any remaining juices. Put cling film over the top of each pudding, place them on a dish to catch any drips and put a saucer or plate on top of each. Weigh these down (I use 400g tins) and put the puddings in the fridge to chill for 5-6 hours.
Just before serving turn each pudding out (which should be easy because of the cling film) and garnish with a few fresh berries. I like to serve mine with a little vanilla infused whipped cream.



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BROWN SUGAR PAVLOVA with Autumn fruits


Our last guests of this year visited us for our first Thanksgiving. I have done a bit of research into traditional Thanksgiving dishes to give me some inspiration for what to cook on the big day. To be honest some of the dishes scared me a little bit – I’m not really convinced that mini-marshmallows should ever be part of a main course.

Pumpkin pie seems to be the traditional pudding for the day but I think a lighter after dinner treat will be more popular following a hearty roast dinner. I often feel the same way about Christmas Pudding after Christmas dinner.
I still wanted to make something appropriate to what is essentially a harvest festival though. I have many fond memories of spending early Autumn days blackberry picking with my Grandma and they lend wonderful colour to this dessert. The pears add a little bit of freshness and textural interest and also seem suitably Autumnal.

I love the idea of using brown sugar instead of white in Pavlova. It gives it a really lovely toffee flavour and an extra chewy texture which, again gives a really nice seasonal twist to this classic summer dessert.

serves 8

2 egg whites
50g castor sugar
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

2 pears
120g blackberries
2 tbs port
2 tbs + 1 tsp sugar
300ml water

300ml double cream (whipped)


Pre-heat the oven to 130°c.
Using a large, spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Mix together the two types of sugar and whisk them into the egg whites in three or four batches. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved into the egg and it is smooth, glossy and stiff.
Pipe or spoon the meringue into a large circle on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper. Bake for two hours and then leave it on the tray to cool and dry completely.
Peel and core the pears and cut each into eight pieces. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water and simmer the pears in it for about 5 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
Cook the blackberries in the port for a few minutes then remove from the pan and mix them with the pears. Reserve the juice and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to this cooking liquor and reduce it until it is thick and syrupy.


It’s best to wait to assemble everything until just before serving, or it can go a little soggy. Fill the meringue base with cream and pile on the fruit before drizzling on a little of the syrup. Elegant, and more importantly, yummy!


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America doesn’t seem to do mince pies at Christmas. Cookies appear to be the festive baking classic on this side of the pond.


I’ve never been a particular fan of mince pies – unless I can pry off the pastry lid and fill it with clotted cream, but Mr Colonial cravings was raised on them, with his Nan producing them all year round!
Bearing in mind that Christmas is a time of tradition I have conceded to make a batch of mincemeat this week to give it a bit of time to mature and for the flavours to develop.

Bearing in mind my aversion to meat, I don’t put suet in my mincemeat. I don’t even bother with vegetarian suet because I don’t really like the slightly greasy feel it leaves in your mouth and it never really seems necessary to add it for preserving sake. For the amount of time that I keep it for, the booze will take care of that…


makes about 800ml


1 large apple (about 250g once cored)
1 orange (zest and juice)
350g mixed dried fruit and peel (I like to include a few golden raisins to lighten it a bit)
50g glace cherries
200g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
150ml rum
100ml port

Core the apple but don’t bother to peel it. Chop it really finely (a dinky food processor is good for this) or grate it. Chop the cherries into quarters and zest the orange. Put everything but the booze into a big, heavy based saucepan, squeeze over the juice of the orange and mix well.
Heat to a gentle bubble and leave for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the booze and bring the mixture back up to a bubble and leave for a further 45 minutes until most of the liquid has either been absorbed into the fruit or evaporated off and you are left with a thick compote.

Spoon into warm sterilized jars and seal.

Use to fill pies, tarts, Chelsea buns, baked apples, you can even fold it through a no-churn ice cream.



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Everything but the weather is telling me that the summer is over. The shops are in full Halloween mode, or in some cases even gearing up for Christmas! But the weather is still sunny and the temperature has yet to drop below the mid-twenties so I’m not quite ready for comfort food and winter coats. I’m enjoying the novelty of this too much, I can’t remember the last time I wore a jumper let alone a coat!

This is as far as I can bring myself to go with autumnal food at the moment. It’s my one concession to it. I’m not prepared to give up on summer yet, I’ll just dip my toe into autumn for now.


The combination of spicy tart apple, sweet creamy ice cream and crunchy buttery crumble is truly yummy. It’s the kind of ice cream that’s a dessert in it’s own right.

I’ve flavoured the ice cream base with vanilla to echo the traditional crumble and custard combination but it’s by no means essential. I’m also quite heavy handed with the spices in the compote so feel free to adjust them to your own tastes. Be sure to use real butter in the crumble – it just doesn’t taste the same if you use margarine and I always try to use demerara sugar in crumble mixtures for a bit of extra crunch.


Makes approx 1 litre

Apple Compote

1 apple

1 tsp sugar

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

knob of butter


50g plain flour

10g demerara sugar

30g butter

Ice Cream

300ml double cream

175g condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla paste or seeds of a vanilla pod

Make the compote and the crumble first so that they are cool when they are added to the ice cream base.

To make the crumble preheat the oven to 180°c. Mix together the flour and sugar and rub through the butter until well blended.

Gently press into the base of a baking dish or onto a baking tray. If it looks too fine then you can always make little clumps and clusters in it with your fingertips.


Bake for around 30 minutes until it starts to look golden brown. Turn out onto a plate or chopping board and leave to cool. Once completely cool break the crumble into little nuggets but make sure that they aren’t too fine and sandy.

For the compote, peel and core the apple and cut it into smallish, even sized, pieces. They need to be small but not so small that you end up with apple sauce once it’s cooked.


Put all the compote ingredients into a small saucepan and cook gently until the apple is soft and very slightly syrupy but not at all mushy. This should only take a few minutes, depending upon how big your apple pieces are. Leave to cool.


The ice cream base is the easiest bit. Simply put the condensed milk, cream and vanilla into a large bowl and use an electric whisk to whip it until it forms soft peaks.


Sprinkle over the crumble and compote and carefully fold them through, be careful not to over mix them though. You just need them to be evenly distributed.

Pour into a plastic tub and freeze until solid.


Note: This ice cream is best enjoyed shortly after it is made (what a chore!) so that the crumble pieces remain crunchy.

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