Homemade Honeycomb… easy peasy puddings and pie

I love honey comb. And I love peanut butter. So when my sister sent me a recipe for a peanut butter and honey comb pie, which looks like it might be to die for, it was added to my ‘to do pile’ for over a year.  As you have probably figured from the Baked Alaska, if individual component can be made instead of shop bought they will. So first I had to learn how to make honeycomb.  Apparently honey comb is easy peasy. All you need is sugar, golden syrup, and bicarbonate soda. You melt the sugar and golden syrup in a pan and at the very end add the bicarbonate. Pour into a tray and wait to cool.There are lots of recipes online.

The quantities and techniques vary slightly. Nigella’s advises 100g sugar, 4 table spoons of golden syrup and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate. My freakshakes book has 200g sugar, 5 table spoons of golden syrup and 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate. I had a 3rd recipe with 3 teaspoons of bicarbonate. I’ve tried them all. All recipes state to melt the sugar and golden syrup in a pan and do not stir. It’s at this point I started having problems. Nigella advise to ‘let the mixture turn to goo and then to a bubbling mass the colour of maple syrup – this will take 3 minutes or so’, before stirring in the bicarbonate.  I don’t the exact shade of colour of maple syrup. I’ve tried other recipes that advise to add the bicarbonate ‘once golden’… it’s already golden, at what point is it more golden? I even came across a reciepe that instructed to take off the heat before it burns. Helpful. I spent the whole time watching it bubble and wondering if it was about to burn. Needless to say it took me 6 attempts over 4 months to get the perfect honeycomb.

The first attempt was an epic failure. I had put the hot mixture into 2 baking tins and left to cool down. This resulted in a hard sweet that was stuck to the trays. After numerous attempts trying to remove the honeycomb, the honeycomb and trays went into the bin. For the second attempt I ended up with a fudge. I don’t like fudge so I’ve no idea if it was a nice fudge. So this was promptly put it in the bin. The third attempt was a toffee texture. Again, this went in the bin. I’m aware that that fudge, toffee and honeycomb are the same ingredients, but heated to different temperatures. Basically the longer you heat it the harder it becomes, I was getting closer to honeycomb with every attempt. My fourth attempt tasted like honeycomb. They only problem with it was the strange texture. The bottom half was toffee and the second half was like honeycomb. In the meantime I had done some further reading. The temperature I needed to get to was 152 degrees. So for attempt number 5th I used my thermometer. I also used three teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. I’ve finally cracked it. I had made honeycomb. It had bubbles. And was hard. And it could be smashed into smaller pieces. But it didn’t taste right. You could taste the bicarbonate of soda. So for my 6th attempt I used the ingredients from attempts number 4 with the technique of number 5, and made the perfect honey comb (well 9/10 according to my dad).

So, during this 4 month period and 6 attempts at making honey comb I leant something more important than how to make honeycomb. It might only be 3 simple ingredients; and 3 simple steps. But it’s the fact that baking (whether it’s baking something challenging like honeycomb, or something I’ve made again and again like carrot cake or icecream) gives me something to focus on other than my own thoughts. It gives me peace and quiet. So what I’m sharing with you isn’t a honeycomb recipe. It’s the secret of how to temporary quieten the inner voices.


The Baltic Market, Liverpool

I’ve been doing really well.  I’ve not revisited the Wild Loaf Bakery for a doughnut.  I’ve resisted the temptation.  I’ve had enough will power to not get off the bus a stop early (or even go into town with just the intention of getting a doughnut).  Just yesterday I cycled pass it twice on my way to and from a 35 miles bike ride.

Just to clarify, I haven’t been going without cake.  When it comes to cake and puddings and icecream, there has to be rules.

  1. It has to be worth it.  It has to be worth the calories, the price, the effort and time.  If I’m going to bake a cake, then I have to factor in the cost and hassle of buying the ingredients. Plus the time it takes to make. If I’m going to go to a café or bakery especially for cake, it has to be worth the journey.  It has to be worth the anxiety. I am not prepared to risk my life for a disappointing piece of fruit cake in an uninspired afternoon tea.  I’m not prepared to spend hours and days doing risk assessments for a piece of overcooked carrot cake from a well known department store (even if it was free).  If the internet, or words of mouth is telling me that something is spectacular, then I am more than willing to go out of my way to try a cronut at Harvey Nicks while I’m in London (I will get round to blogging about it).
  2. I need the calories.  If I’ve cycled 50 miles, then a chocolate freak shake from barley and bean is perfectly acceptable (again, I promise to tell you all about it before it becomes a too distant memory).  After all, you would not want me to witter away to nothing.
  3. A reward/motivation.  You try cycling 50 miles without the motivation of a freak shake.  I don’t know what other cyclist think about when their legs are struggling to keep going, but as my legs started to lose momentum, my inner voice was chanting “freak-shake…freak-shake…”, and my legs would keep going in time to the chant.
  4. A celebration.  I made 2 triple chocolate salted caramel popcorn cakes a few days ago for my dad’s birthday.  I ended up going home with half a cake, so I have been munching my way thought it (with the help of friends).  There are two exceptions to this rule.  Firstly, as advised in a previous blog, [quote] you don’t need an excuse to make a Baked Alaska. The Baked Alaska is the celebration [end quote]. Secondly, when you have spend a number of years with PTSD, anxiety or depression, you learn that good days should be celebrated.  Having said that good days are becoming the norm, so this should probably become an exception to the exception.
  5. You are having a really bad day. And you need motivation. End of. See rule number 3.
  6. Its a Sunday, and I’ve gone round to the family home for a meal.  Rumour has it, my dad isn’t allowed pudding unless I’m visiting. I suspect the invites would stop if I didn’t have cake.  Better safe than sorry.
  7. You are ill.  Everyone knows Icecream makes things better again.
  8. You are vegetarian and then only vegetarian option is the cake/pudding/icecream.
  9. Holidays.  You don’t know when you will have the opportunity to go back and sample the local goods.  I devoured the deserts in Vilnius.  It turns out they have exceptionally high standards. The Apple and Cinnamon muffin I had in a lovely little coffee shop called Dora in Sofia earlier this month could only be described as “perfect”.  Fact is food taste nicer on holiday; and calories and budgets do not count.
  10. A once in a life time opportunity.  This includes menu Specials, such as the Watermelon Cake at Tiger Rock.  Or baking workshops, such as a recent Shipton Mill to learn how to bake croissants and enriched bread .  Although these are technically not cake, as far as I can figure out, the only reason these are considered acceptable breakfast food is because they contain yeast.  This also includes holidays (see rule 9). A once in a life time opportunity includes farmers markets, festivals and the Baltic Market.  Today, is the first time I’ve been to the Baltic Market.  Like farmers Markets and festivals, the food vendors are always changing.  These places cannot be taken for granted or you will miss out.

As per usual, I have gotten side tracked.  Based on my own rules, I could have gone to the bakery yesterday and picked up a doughnut.  I cycled 35 miles.  However, I had already stopped at another one of my favourite bakeries.  I promise to inform you off all the taste sensations of Artisane bakery.

This morning I went to the Baltic Market.  It has been all over facebook, and in the local news.  The Echo reported queued round the block when it first opened in July!  In addition to changing the vendors on a monthly basis, once a month there is a farmers market. This place has surely got to be worth a visit.  Today was farmers market day. 3 of us went for brunch. But when I saw the Wild Loaf doughnuts stand (you couldn’t miss them, they were right by the entrant), it was too much to resist.  When I had visited the bakery they only had 2 choices.  You will know from Gaintree Rainforest blog that I don’t handle choice very well.  Today I was faced with 3 options.  I bought two. I couldn’t resist them. The mixed berry jam doughnuts were calling to me.  They had been on my mind since that first visit to the bakery.  These are the best doughnuts I have EVER had.  They were overfilled with Jam.  There was so much sugar everywhere.  I was covered in it.  My hair, my clothes, my hands, my face.  I much have looked like I had a really bad case of dandruff.  These doughnuts are so good, they had sold out early this afternoon. I bought the Hazelnuts Chocolate for tomorrow.   After all, I deserve a treat for resisting doughnuts over the last three weeks (see rule number 3).






The Wild Loaf Bakery, Liverpool

A couple of Saturdays ago, a friend invited me to the second anniversary afternoon celebrations of a bar, that I had never heard of, in town.  I’m not really a pub sort of person.  I don’t like crowds. I don’t like loud places. I don’t like dark places. I don’t like places I have never been to before.  I spend a lot of time planning when I go out.  There are lots of “what ifs?” questions that need answering, and scenarios that I have to prepare for.  It takes a lot of energy and efforts, so everything I do has to be worth it.  I had already decided when I woke up that morning that my motto for the day was going to be “Just f*ucking do it”. I had spend all summer researching stained glass windows workshops. But didn’t even get as far as emailing queries. I just wasted hours on anxiety. Months of asking myself questions that didn’t matter.  Wondering which course I should choose; thinking of different scenarios for how I would get to the various locations on offer, and which dates would be safest, and how many people would be in a class, and “what if something happens?”. I try to predict the unpredictable.  Exhausting. But that morning I booked onto a 2 day glass art workshop. I emailed the artist. Paid the invoice. Booked the trains. It was that simple.

So when my friend asked me if I was going to go to the pub that afternoon, at first, I was reluctant. But then she said the two magic words. There would be screen printing there, and apparently the doughnuts on their Instagram looks pretty amazing. Along with an inner voice screaming “just f*cking do it”, art and cake will get me anywhere, anytime.

On the way there I ran thought the usual scenarios in my mind.  Wondering where I should get off the bus (a stop sooner than usual), and what if I couldn’t find the place (its down a small side passage way), and how crowded was it going to be (turned out most people stay at home when its pouring with rain).  All strange things to worry about when we have the World Wide Web, and various means of contacts constantly at our finger tips…but what if…?  I had the perfect excuse to change my mind and head back home.  I got soaked.  Any excuse would have done though. After deliberating which doughnut (mixed berry jam, or honeycomb and custard) to get from the Wild Loaf bakery, next door to the bar, we chat, and ate, the afternoon away.  I would say that honeycomb doughnut is pretty good.  Now, it takes all my will power to not get off the bus a stop early.


Homemade Baked Alaska

For a while now I have wanted to make a baked Alaska. It may be a bit old fashioned, but I’ve never eaten one before, and it’s fascinates me. A Baked Alaska basically consisted of 3 layers: a sponge cake, ice-cream and a meringue. What is amazing about it, is the whole thing goes in the oven, yet the ice cream stayed frozen.  You don’t need an excuse to make a Baked Alaska. The Baked Alaska is the celebration.

My mum mistakenly believed we were going to buy a sponge cake, ice cream and simply put the component together, and cover the whole thing in the meringue. But where is the fun in that?! I wanted to create a taste sensation. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be able to say ‘I made that’. I wanted excitement, and to be proud of what we created. I had high expectations from this pudding.  I wanted this to represent everything I wants out of life.

I loved making this Baked Alaska. I loved figuring out what flavours each layer was going to be. I loved researching the techniques to making a successful Baked Alaska. I loved making each individual component, and the excitement when we, for a very brief moment,were worried that it wasn’t going to fit in the oven. I loved the anticipation of watching the meringue through the glass door for the 3-4 minutes in the oven, slowly watching it turn a golden colour. I had thought I was just making a desert. But my absolute favourite thing about today was how it became a social event. I loved the fact that my parents friends heard about the Baked Alaska and came round to help us finish it off. But most of all I loved spending the afternoon with my mum, working, laughing, and for one brief moment, even dancing together! All these little things are what life is about.

So, for those of you that want to have a go at creating your own master piece I have put together a simple step by step guide (unlike the previous blog, with my fague measurements for making a pumpkin coconut cake!). Our layers consisted of a chocolate sponge cake, raspberry icecream, a basic meringue, and a chocolate-mint sauce for serving.  We spent the afternoon tasting and adjusting the flavours as we went along. It’s one of the fun parts of baking! But you can be as creative and adventive as you like.

How to make a Baked Alaska in 10 easy steps.


Ice cream (homemade or shop bought)

Cake (homemade or shop bought)

Meringue – 3 eggs, 200g caster sugar, cream of tartar

Chocolate sauce – 200ml double cream, 200g chocolate

Step 1: put two layers of cling film inside a bowl

Step 2: fill the bowl with slightly melted, or not quite set ice cream. Make sure the bowl is the same size or smaller than the cake. You can cheat and buy a tub (or 2 or 3… layered ice cream would look sensational!).  My homemade raspberry recipe is below.  Place the ice cream in the freezer until hard.

Step 3: place your sponge cake on a baking tray without lips (any flavour you like).  If you bake your own cake, make sure it has cooled down.

Step 4: make your meringue by whisking 3 eggs whites until soft peaks form.  Add 100g caster sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar. continue to whisk until hard peaks form. Fold in the remaining 100g of caster sugar.

Step 5: To make the sauce, bring 200ml double cream to the boil. melt in 200g chocolate pieces (we did 100g dark chocolate, and 100g dark mint chocolate for a true taste sensation).  It turns out chocolate mint and raspberry are AMAZING together!

Step 6: use the cling film to remove the ice cream from the bowl and place upside down onto the cake. Remove the cling film.

Step 7: cut the cake down to the size of the ice cream dome if necessary

Step 8. working quickly, thickly spread the meringue mixture in peaks to completely cover the cake and ice cream.  Ensure there are no gaps, or the ice cream will melt in the oven

Step 9: put the whole thing in a hot oven for 3-4 minutes until the meringue turns golden.

Step 10: slide onto a serving place.  Pour on the chocolate sauce.  And stuffed your smiling little faces 🙂

To make Raspberry ice cream:

300ml double cream

300ml full fat milk

350g frozen raspberries

Juice from half a lemon

A cup of caster sugar

1. Blend the fruit, lemon and caster sugar.

2. Once smooth stir in the cream and milk

3. Pour the liquid thru a strainer, to remove any seeds, into an ice cream maker, and churn for an hour. If you don’t have any ice cream maker, pour into a cling film layered bowl, place directly into the freezer and stir every hour until it starts to harden (over about 6 hours).

The chocolate cake sponge

2 eggs (slightly whip)

150g butter (softened)

125g self raising flour

125g caster sugar

50g dark chocolate (melted)

1. preheat the oven, and butter the cake tin.

2. beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. beat in the eggs

4. fold in the flour

5. add the mixture to the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes (220C)

6. remove cake from oven and cool

Don’t forget to sing, dance and laugh, as deemed appropriate, between steps.


Janey’s Back Yard

I am rubbish at this updating my blog malarkey. Its had been weeks. There have been too many instances to mention where I have thought “I should write about that”. I have even taken lots of photos with the intention of updating my blog. Except I have been busy. This wasn’t a problem I envisaged when I first started blogging. As mentioned in my first blog, I was anxious about leaving the house. As a result I had nothing but time. But in that first blog I made myself, and you, a promise. I was going to work my way thought the Liverpool Echo’s 9 best places to have icecream in Liverpool; which I have slowly been licking my way thought.  But every blogger knows that if you don’t write about it, it didnt happen. I was also going to learn the cello and do a stainglass workshop. I haven’t done either of these yet. I simply haven’t had time. I have taken up pottery and a landscape painting class. I’ve been to a Screenprinting and a Experimental Protraits Mixed Media workshop. I have had opportunities to blog about all of these. I screenprinted the photo of the 99 with flake that costs me £2 (I had to get my money’s worth). I was also a bit early to the Experiemental Protraits workshop, which incidentently was round the corner from Hotel Chocolat, and a really nice day. So I tried their chocolate icecream (it tasted like a cold version of hot chocolate, where its was not quite as chocolately as I hoped for). I have also been on numberous bike ride, and cycled for miles; and pretty much every ride involved cake or icecream. I have sampled icecream and deserts in Romania and Lithuania. For the first time in years, I have also been baking. It is not like I have been sitting on my increasingly fat arse doing nothing.  This week my time has been taken up trying (without much success), to get my parrot instagram famous (he’s expensive and needs to start earning his keep).

So let me introduce you to Jack. Jack turned 3 last weekend (in case you are interested, we had scones, strawberries and cream to celebrate). Jack is a Black-Headed Caique parrot. There is much debate about how “caique” is pronounced; ranging from “Kah-eek” to “Cake”. Jack loves cake. So, I’m going to assume “cake” would be his preferred pronunciation.

On the day this photo was taken, me, Jack and Lorna (a BFF), decided to enjoy a homemade cake in my yard. Lorna had to follow a gluten free diet, which is what prompted me to bake for the first time in years. Using ingredients that have been lying in my kitchen cupboards, and were on the verge of being just a bit too old, I knocked together a cake. In the past, I have used recipes from blogs. They are useful. Especially if there is a photo of a gorgeous cake (even if, in this case it is in the background). However, I can’t tell you the exact ingredients. It consisted of a tin of Pumpkin, approximately half a cup of coconut flour, 2 or 3 (or was is 4?) eggs (I kept adding them in until I got to the right consistently), a good squeeze of nectar sugar, an unspecified amount of desiccated coconut, and the remaining jar of coconut oil. I’m aware “the remaining jar” is a useless form of measurement, as this is subject to a lot of variation (but if I had to guess, I would say it was about a cup full). The buttercream was made of soft cheese and nectar sugar. I had to improvise as I didn’t have any butter or sugar (ingredients that are generally an essential part of baking). What I ended up with was a really light and moist carrot-cake like cake. Lorna and Jack had seconds, so I’m assuming they were satisfied with my creation.

I’m aware I am not the best food blogger out there. I’m rubbish at writing regular intervals. I don’t give you any useful information about places to go, or food to eat. I haven’t even been able to provide a recipe so that you, or I, for that matter, would be able to recreate a cake again. Also, while proof reading this, I realised I hadn’t even specified how long the cake mixture needs to go in the oven. Which, while on the subject, is “until baked” (stick a cocktail stick in it after 15 minutes, and if it is dry, it is ready … or overdone). I don’t think blogging about cakes and puddings and ice-cream is my forte really. However, I am really good at eating it. So over the next few weeks, I will have to limit my pudding supply until I have caught up with my backlog of unwritten blogs.  In the meantime, bearing in mind Jack isn’t allowed chocolate, what cake should I bake next?

On another note, I was right in that very first blog. The search for a taste sensation has set me free.

Ice cream van, Otterpool, Liverpool

It was a beutiful night, so I cycled to the river front, ate a picnic and then spent half an hour wondering if a ’99’ with a flake was really worth £2. I was kinda of sad to see it was no longer called a ’99’, but a ‘single with flake’. I wonder why they renamed it. Sure when I was a kid in the 90s they cost 99p, but can we blame inflation for the name change? A quick check online revealed that the ’99’ had been called that since the 1930s.  Im pretty sure back in those days, when the UK was dealing with pennies, shillings, and pounds, that ice creams didn’t cost 99p. It also turned out that no one (including cadburys) knows the origin of the name. Maybe the ice cream industry just got feb up of arguing with the fact that a ’99’ no longer costs 99p.

So with gritted teeth I ordered a ‘single with flake’.

Tiger Rock, Smithdown Rd, Liverpool

We celebrated a friend’s birthday at a local East Asian restaurant last night. My Thai Pad was inoffentive, and I always find East Asian deserts a bit hit and miss, so I don’t usually bother.  However, when we were informed that the cake special was watermelon cake I was curious.  I mean that is just wrong right?  How can you have watermelon cake?  What does it taste like?  What does it look like? What was the texture?  The waitress said it was abit like red velvet, but with watermelon.  So it was definitly a cake. Not a jelly type thing. Not a sortbet or ice cream. A cake.

So while everyone else ordered their Apple Spring Rolls & Ice Cream, I opted for the watermelon cake (with coconut icecream).  I figured I might as well.  I can try their Apple Spring Rolls or Mango Rice pudding any day of the week, but this was their special. There might not be another opportunity.

I was still kind of surprised when a cake (that looks abit like red velvet cake) was placed in front of me.  Anyway, to my (pleasant) surprise my watermelon cake tasted like watermelon.