Aga baking

Sticky Lemon Cake

This a lovely cake, intensely lemony and sticky. I first made it back in 1999 for my mum on Mother’s Day.  It was a recipe in the Tesco Recipe Magazine in March 1999.

The instructions for this cake advise that you whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl over simmering water.  I have always done this, but it is such a pain.  Trying to get the electric wire of the whisk to stretch over to the hob or Aga and then holding the bowl steady over a hot pan is awkward and potentially dangerous.  So, this time I ignored that instruction and just whisked the eggs and sugar in a bowl in the normal manner and it worked just as well, with the mixture becoming just as moussey and the cake being so much easier to make. I also thought that if I sifted the flour twice, like I did with the chocolate muffins, this would make the cake even lighter.  It worked.

This cake lasts a couple of days in a tin, so is perfect to keep cutting into.

350g caster sugar
5 eggs
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
250g plain flour
50g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
150ml double cream
juice of 1 lemon
100g melted butter

For the glaze:
juice of 2 lemons
50g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4, or use the Baking Oven of the Aga.  Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform tin.

Place the eggs and the sugar and the lemon zest in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until the mixture is thick and moussey.  Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a bowl and then sift again, in three separate batches, over the moussey mixture and fold in very carefully with a large metal spoon. Fold in the cream, then the lemon juice and then the melted butter, making sure that each are well mixed in before adding the next.

Pour the mixture carefully into the prepared tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When the cake is nearly cooked place the icing sugar and lemon juice into a small pan and bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven pierce it all over with the skewer and brush the lemon glaze all over.  Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.


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Mocha Hazelnut Cake

I have times when I crave a coffee cake.  I usually turn to the classic coffee and walnut in such times of need.  But I have also been coveting the notion of an Italian Hazelnut Cake.  I think it was Rachel’s blog where I first saw this, or it may have been Michele’s, or even Tracy’s.  That is the trouble when you read so many wonderful blogs, it can cause no end of trouble when you try to find a recipe that you loved.

Fortunately for me Rachel Allen does an Italian Hazelnut Cake in her book, Bake, and so with a bit of tweaking I had the perfect Coffee and Hazelnut Cake, and because it’s me I couldn’t resist adding some chocolate and turning it into a Mocha Hazelnut Cake.

I urge you to try this, it manages to be incredibly light and incredibly moist at the same time.  The coffee shines through but doesn’t diminish the wonderful hazelnut flavour and the chocolate adds a wonderful depth.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

As I have added both coffee and hazelnuts to the original recipe, it can’t really be called an Italian Hazelnut Cake, but it can be called a Shropshire Mocha Hazelnut Cake.

200g hazelnuts, with their skins still on preferably
50g good quality chocolate
1 tsp baking powder
2tsp instant coffee powder, mixed with 2 tsp of hot water
100g softened butter
5 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
pinch of salt


Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
Place the hazelnuts, chocolate and baking powder in a food processor and whizz into fine crumbs.  Add the butter and whizz again until just mixed.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until the mixture has the texture of a mousse and the whisk leaves a trail when lifted out.

Add the coffee and the hazelnut mixture and beat until combined.

In a very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and the pinch of salt together until stiff. Then add one-third of the egg whites to the other ingredients and stir well to combine and lighten the mixture.  Add the remaining egg whites in two batches, folding in carefully to retain as much air in the mixture as possible.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 170°c, gas mark 3, or with the oven rack on the lowest set of runners in the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 1 hour or until the cake is firm on top and a skewer will come out clean when it is inserted into the cake.

Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


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Baked jam roly poly

I have wanted to make jam roly poly for ages but haven’t got round to it.  You can either steam it, wrapped in a cloth in a bain marie, or you can bake it like I did on Sunday.  I decided to bake it because it needs 3 hours of steaming and when I am cooking Sunday lunch I need all four ovens of my Aga available for action. The steaming pudding would have taken up quite a bit of my simmering oven.  Anyway,I prepared it early on and cooked it early and then kept it warm covered in foil in the warming oven.  I wouldn’t do this again though, it would have been better, I think, fresh out of the oven.  Oh well, I live and learn.

I made proper custard to go with it, and it was an enjoyable change to the sunday dessert menu. Next time, I will try steaming it and see which version I prefer.

I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe in the The River Cottage Year as a guide, but adapted it to be baked rather than steamed and because I had 200g of suet, not 250g as HFW’s recipe calls for.

You can make this vegetarian by using the vegetarian suet that is available. You can also try different fillings, maybe mincemeat, or syrup with raisins and sultanas and a bit of chopped apple (ooh that sounds good, I might do that next time).

My mum had made strawberry jam from the piles of summer strawberries in her freezer, so that was the obvious choice for me, but I wonder what a marmalade roly poly would be like?

200g (8oz) shredded suet
400g (16 oz) self raising flour
pinch of salt
about 200-250ml cold water

Jam or filling of your choice (I used about half a jar of strawberry jam)


In a large bowl mix the suet, flour and salt together and pour in 200ml of water to begin with and mix to a stiff but manageable dough.  You may need to add more water to achieve this.

Flour a work surface.  Shape the dough into a square and then roll into a rectangle until the dough is about 1 cm thick.  Spread the jam or filling, leaving a good margin around the edge.  Brush the margin with a little water, then fold over the edges of the dough all around to seal in the filling.

Then roll from the short edge like a swiss roll, sealing with a little water.

Place on a baking tray seal-side down and place in a preheated oven at 180°c for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with custard.

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Chocolate marmalade biscuits

You may know about the masses of marmalade I made, and the cake I made with it. Well, I wondered what it would be like in a biscuit.  It turns out that marmalade is very nice in a biscuit.  It adds a bitter depth that is really quite addictive.  I know, I know, I really shouldn’t eat three with one cup of tea (again!).

You could chop up the pieces of peel if you like, but I didn’t because I wanted to enjoy the chunkiness in the biscuit.  If you really wanted to spoil yourself you could add 50g (2oz) of chopped chocolate into the mix as well.

100g (4oz) softened butter
75g (3oz) light brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp marmalade
125g (5oz) spelt flour (or you could use wholemeal or plain)
50g (2oz) ground almonds
25g (1oz) cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder


Beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat again until well combined. Stir in the marmalade. Add the flour, almonds, cocoa and baking powder and stir until it forms a stiff dough.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased or non stick baking sheet (you will probably need two).  Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4, or the Baking Oven of the Aga for 10-12 minutes until they are firm on the top. Leave to cool on the tin for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Mini chocolate muffins

We went swimming straight from school last night.  We went last week, and I was under prepared for just how hungry small children can get after an hour in the pool.  The result was that last week I was coerced into buying two chocolate muffins from the vending machine.  Apart from the cost of this, the bought muffins have an unfeasibly long shelf- life (what can they put in them?).  They are also so big, sweet and cloying that they only get half eaten and the rest ends up stamped into the carpet in my car.

So, yesterday I planned ahead and made these with the help of the youngest. They take ten minutes to make and ten minutes to cook and are light and fluffy. Being smaller, two can be eaten in succession without too many crumbs ending up on the floor. Happiness all round.

You can make them into double chocolate muffins like I have by adding chunkily chopped chocolate into the mix, or you can leave this out.  The big lumps of squidgy chocolate are very tasty though.

Dry ingredients
125g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients
1 egg
50g sugar
25g butter, melted
100ml milk

50g chocolate chopped


The key to a good muffin is not to over mix and I have taken on board Delia Smith’s tip that the dry ingredients benefit from being sifted twice to maximise the air in the mix.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.  In another large bowl mix together all of the wet ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and add the chopped chocolate.  Mix very briefly, for no more than 15 seconds.  It will look as if you haven’t mixed it properly, don’t worry because it should look like this.

Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls into 12 fairy cake cases in a patty tin. Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or near the top of the Baking Oven of the Aga for 8-10 minutes until firm on top.  Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool.

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Easter biscuits

The official name for these tasty morsels is Easter biscuits, but in this house they are called Animal biscuits and they should actually be called Poorly biscuits.  These are the ones that I am asked to make if either of the girls is feeling a bit off colour. This is because I made them once for the little one when nothing else would tempt her to eat but these did the trick.  Ever since at the slightest sign of illness Animal biscuits have to be made. Well, the little one has a cold.  Nothing too serious, but I am sure the other children at pre-school would prefer not to have it, so yesterday there was the usual request to make Animal biscuits.

I have recipes for these biscuits in two of my books; Jill Brand’s The Best Kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute, Cakes and Biscuits and Louise Walker’s The Traditional Aga Party Book. I normally make them from the latter, but yesterday I made them from Jill Brand’s book, in which she suggests removing them from the oven half way through cooking, brushing them with egg white and dusting with caster sugar and then cooking them for the rest of the time.  Feel free to do this, but I can’t really tell the difference between this and Louise Walker’s advice to dust them with caster sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.  As the first way is a faff, I would suggest following Louise Walker on this point.

Louise Walker explains that currants were once a prized possession and so these biscuits were made for special occasions and were often handed out to children after church on Easter Sunday.

This recipe combines both of the above recipes to make them mine.

Makes about 20-24 biscuits depending on the size of your cutter.

100g (4oz) softened butter
75g (3oz) caster sugar
1 egg yolk (feel free to use the egg white as described above)
200g (8oz) plain flour
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
75g (3oz) currants
splash of milk
caster sugar to sprinkle on the cooked biscuits


Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolk.  Add the flour, spices and currants and mix with a spoon. You will probably need a splash of milk to get it to a soft dough that will roll out.

Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out until it’s about 5mm thick.  Using any shape cookie cutter that you like (the tradition is for rounds) cut out shapes, re-rolling the dough when you need to, and place onto a baking tray (you will need two baking sheets). Place the trays in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or near the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for 10-15 minutes until they are lightly golden.  Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar whilst still warm.  Place onto wire racks to cool.  Eat and feel better.

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Update 8th December 2020: If you would like to learn to make stollen (an updated recipe to this one) and other delicious Christmas breads you can join me on my online Christmas Breads course.

Well, this is the scene outside:

Poor little birds.  The last two days we have had a lot of snow (well, to clarify I am talking about the Midlands region of the UK and we don’t get that much snow normally. So when it snows all day non-stop we like to talk about it.  It’s weather and we are English!).  This has meant that the roads are a no-go area so it was deemed a baking day.  I have had a lump of marzipan (or almond paste) in the fridge since I made the youngest’s birthday cake at the beginning of December and have been meaning to make stollen ever since.

It takes a while to make, and you probably do need to be having a baking day to make this.

100g sultanas
100g raisins
100g currants
100g candied peel, chopped finely
100g ground almonds
50ml rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast
225ml warm milk
500g  strong white bread flour
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground finely
6 cardamom pods, husks removed and the seeds ground finely to make ½ tsp
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
150g butter cubed
100g caster sugar
225g marzipan
icing sugar to dust


Place the fruit and the almonds in a bowl and pour over the rum and the vanilla extract.  Mix well and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and put to one side whilst you make the dough.

Place the flour, salt, pepper, spices, lemon zest and yeast in a bowl  and pour over the warm milk. Mix to form a dough.  I found that it made a stiff dough with some of the flour not mixed in but figured that this was ok as you will be adding butter to the dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook use this to beat in the butter and the sugar.  Then knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Make it into a ball shape, place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  It was a cold day when I was making mine so it took a bit longer than this to rise to double its size.

Using your fingertips, gently prod the air out of the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and prod gently into a square.  Then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick.  Pour the fruit and almond mixture over the top and then knead the dough until all the fruit is evenly distributed.

Cut the dough in half. Cut the marzipan in half.

Prod one piece of the dough into a square and then use the rolling pin until it measures about 15cm x 20cm.  Roll one piece of the marzipan into a sausage that is slightly shorter than the dough and place this in the middle.  Roll the dough around the marzipan and press it well to seal the seam.  Shape into a log shape and place onto a greased baking sheet.  Repeat the same with the other dough and marzipan.  Make sure you leave plenty of room between the two loaves on the baking sheet so that they can rise without growing into one another.

Cover the baking tray with the large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaves won’t stick to the plastic as they rise and leave to rise again until they have almost doubled in size.

Remove from their plastic tent and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c or gas mark 6, or the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 40-45 minutes.  If you are cooking in the Aga, check at 25 minutes and if brown, transfer to the baking oven for the rest of the cooking time.

Dust well with icing sugar. Rachel Allen recommends doing this when cool, but I did it as soon as they came out of the oven so some of it glazed a little.

Allow to cool before enjoying and if you can manage it leave it to mature, and then tell me how it tasted.

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