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Cover: Make your cake…and eat it

Recipes with brown sugar

03Oct 12

Pecan Squares

Pecan SquaresThese deliciously satisfying pecan squares are a fantastic solution if you’re looking for an interesting dessert for a dinner party or brunch.  Use the best quality pecans you can get and keep a close eye while baking to avoid burning.

I also suggest you try my apricot and pecan cake. It makes a fantastic breakfast option!


Pecan Squares
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
A fantastic solution if you're looking for an interesting dessert
  • 225g butter at room temperature
  • 150g brown sugar
  • ½tsp salt
  • 375g flour
  • 115g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 6tbsp honey
  • 2tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • ¼tsp salt
  • 200g pecan halves
  • ½tsp vanilla extract
  2. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  3. Line a deep baking dish with parchment.
  4. Using an electric mixer or a food processor, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the salt and mix to combine.
  6. Add the flour a third at a time on medium speed and continue mixing until the dough starts to form large clumps.
  7. Press the dough into the baking dish lined with parchment to form a crust about ½ centimetre thick.
  8. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork in 10 places or so.
  9. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.
  10. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  11. Transfer pan to a wire rack for cooling.
  13. Reduce the heat of the oven to 160ºC.
  14. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, double cream and salt in a pot over medium heat.
  15. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture sticks to the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.
  16. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts and vanilla extract.
  17. Pour the filling into the cooled crust.
  18. Bake in the 160º oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling starts to bubble.
  19. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  20. When cool, carefully lift out of the pan and place on a cutting board.
  21. Cut into 5cm squares.
  22. Can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.


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30Jul 12

Date and Raisin Biscuits

Date and Raisin BiscuitsThis delicious date and raisin biscuit recipe was given to me years ago by a neighbour who was a real baking aficionado, and they instantly became one of my favourite biscuits!  I remember her house (and mine, as I lived right next door) used to always smell of cakes and biscuits at the weekends, which always left me with my mouth watering and wondering if it would be too cheeky to go over and ask for a sample!  Luckily, I never had to, as she eventually came over and offered me some of these delicious biscuits, and many other treats over the course of the years that I lived next to her.

To keep with the date theme, you could try this curly asparagus salad with goat’s cheese and Medjool dates as a meal before these biscuits. After all, you will probably need some healthy food to offset the sugar in this recipe!

As with most biscuit recipes, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Just make sure you mix everything well and remember that the longer you let the dough sit in the refrigerator, the better they’ll turn out.  Enjoy!


Date and Raisin Biscuits
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
  • 100g seedless raisins
  • 150g chopped dates
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 200g butter
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g plus 3tsp flour
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Place the dates and raisins in a saucepan and cover them with 250ml of water.
  4. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Most of the water will boil off or be absorbed by the raisins. What little water is left should not be drained but kept as part of the raisin and date mix. This will help the consistency of the batter later.
  5. Stir in the baking soda and let cool.
  6. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar.
  7. Beat the eggs well, and then beat them into the butter and sugar mixture.
  8. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
  9. Blend the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.
  10. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  11. Add the cooled raisins and dates to the batter and mix well.
  12. Cover the batter with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  13. Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto the greased baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 cm between each biscuit.
  14. Bake for around 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges turn golden.


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20Jun 12

Almond Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries

Almond Pound Cake with Fresh StrawberriesA bit of a twist on the classic pound cake recipe, this almond pound cake with fresh strawberries is the perfect treat for a summer afternoon.  I like to use brown sugar to sweeten the strawberries as I find it gives them a more nuanced flavour, but if you don’t like the taste, you can substitute normal white granulated sugar.  In fact, if the berries are sweet enough, you can omit the sugar altogether for a slightly more healthy version. (Also try strawberries with Grana Padano and honey.)



  • 165g butter, softened
  • 190g cake flour
  • 180ml almond paste
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 180ml milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 500g fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 150ml double cream



  1. Preheat oven to 175ºC.
  2. Grease and flour a 25cm x 15cm x 7cm loaf pan, or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter on medium speed in an electric mixer. Add the almond paste and continue mixing until smooth.
  4. Gradually add sugar and beat until light in colour.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add the vanilla extract.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add this mixture to the batter alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just blended.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with just a bit of crumb on it.
  10.  While the cake is baking, prepare the strawberries: Mix the hulled and sliced strawberries with the brown sugar, stirring well to coat all the berries with sugar.  Set aside for at least 10 minutes so that the berries release their juice.
  11.  Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12.  Carefully remove the cake from the pan and continue cooling on the wire cooling rack.
  13.  When the cake has cooled, cut into slices and top with a couple of tablespoons of the strawberry and brown sugar mixture.
  14.  Drizzle a little double cream over the top and serve.

Prep Time:  15 minutes

Cooking Time:  55 minutes

Serves:  6-8

Difficulty:  Easy

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08Jun 12

Apricot Squares

Apricot SquaresI love making cakes; they’re my favourite food bar-none, but sometimes for a party it just seems like too much bother to have to serve it on plates with a fork and knife, as well as all the extra washing-up this means later on.  So for my latest party, I decided to make squares instead, as they can be served on a napkin and eaten with your fingers if need be.  They’re not any more difficult to make than a regular cake, but just as tasty!

As an optional “extra,” you can also concoct an orange icing to top it off. Depending on your sweet tooth (or that of your guests), you can give it a try. With the icing, the mix of apricots, almonds and orange in these apricot squares is truly astounding, as I’m sure my guests would attest to!

For those who like to combine fruit with chocolate, I recommend this chocolate and apricot wrap cake.


For the squares:

  • 160ml dried apricots
  • 114g butter
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 165g sifted flour
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml chopped almonds
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs

For the icing:

  • 75g butter, softened
  • 190g icing sugar
  • 40ml orange juice
  • 1/2tsp fine orange zest


For the squares:

  1. Preheat oven to 175ºC.
  2. Butter and flour a 20cm square baking pan.
  3. Rinse the apricots, cover with water in a small pot and boil for ten minutes.
  4. Drain off the water, let cool and then chop up the apricots.
  5. Mix the butter, sugar and 125g of sifted flour until a crumbly mixture is formed.
  6. Pack this mixture into the bottom of the square pan and bake for 25 minutes or until the top turns light brown.
  7. Sift the remaining 40g of flour together with the salt and baking powder.
  8. In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar into the eggs and then add the flour mixture a third at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  9. Add the apricots, almonds and vanilla and mix well.
  10. Spread this mixture over the already baked layer.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  12. Let cool.

For the icing:

  1. Mix all the ingredients well, either by hand or with an electric mixer.
  2. If the icing is too runny, add more icing sugar.  If it’s too thick, add more orange juice.
  3. Spread the icing over the cooled apricot square.
  4. Cut into squares and serve.

Prep Time:  20 minutes

Cooking Time:  65 minutes

Serves:  8-10

Difficulty:  Medium

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02Jun 12

Peanut Butter Biscuits

Peanut Butter BiscuitsIf you like peanut butter, you’re going to love these chewy peanut butter biscuits!  As with most biscuits, they’re very easy to make and quite difficult to go wrong with.  I like to use smooth peanut butter for mine, but if you prefer to use the crunchy variety, that’ll work just fine as well.  I even tried using almond butter one time for a friend of mine who has a very bad peanut allergy and the result, while not as good as with peanut butter,  was still quite tasty and my friend was definitely thankful he could at least try them!


As with almost all biscuit recipes, it’s very important to let the mixture set in the fridge for at least an hour – the longer the better.  This helps to keep the biscuits from spreading out into a thin mess and running into each other.  If you have a really sweet tooth, you can  either try coating them in brown sugar before placing them on the baking sheet or serve with a scoop of peanut butter ice cream.  Whatever you do, keep a close eye on them while they’re baking; there’s nothing worse than waiting all that time for the dough to set and then burning to a crisp due to a distraction!


  • 230g unsalted butter
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 250ml peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 175ºC.
  2. Grease a baking sheet.
  3. Cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar.
  4. Add the eggs, peanut butter and vanilla and mix well.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and blend well.
  7. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  8. Shape into 4 cm balls and arrange on the greased baking sheet, leaving 5cm between each ball.
  9. Press down on each ball with a fork until it’s about half its original thickness.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned around the edges.
  11. Turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

Prep Time: 10 minutes + 1 hour setting

Cooking Time: 12 minutes

Serves: 4

Difficulty: Medium

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18May 12

Apple Crumble

Apple crumbleIf you’re anything like me, you’ve probably always got lots of apples in the kitchen at the point of going bad.  As far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing, as it gives me the perfect excuse to bake them into something even yummier.  The great thing about most apple-based desserts is that they’re very easy to make and require little time and effort to prepare.  And this apple crumble recipe is probably the easiest of them all! I also recommend a sliced apple cake. You know what they say: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

There’s a lot of debate about exactly which variety of apple is the best for cooking; some prefer Gala, while others swear by Granny Smith or Gravenstein.   Personally, I think the point is moot, as the absolute best way to make the perfect cooked apple dessert is to mix as many different kinds as possible together for a full-on taste explosion and a different nuance in every bite!  So go ahead, grab 6 different apples and start peeling!


For the filling:

  • 6 cooking  apples (or any apples will do)
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp unsalted butter, melted

For the crumble:

  • 4tsp unsalted butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 65g all-purpose flour
  • 125ml rolled oats


For the filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 175ºC.
  2. Peel and slice apples and lay them on the bottom of a non-stick or greased baking dish.
  3. Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples.
  4. Pour the melted butter over the apples.

For the crumble:

  1. Blend the butter into the brown sugar.
  2. Mix together the flour and rolled oats in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the flour and rolled oats to the butter and sugar and mix well.
  4. Spoon this mixture onto the apples.
  5. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Uncover and bake for another 35 minutes or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.
  7. Best served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Prep Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time:  50 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty:  Easy

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16Apr 12

Marvellous Marble Cake

Marvellous Marble CakeThis marvellous marble cake is really great for impressing your friends and family as it looks quite complicated to make, although in reality, it’s actually quite simple.  The cake is so moist and delicious that it can be served on its own, but it can also be served with chocolate or vanilla icing if you like.

For a chocolaty version of this delectable dessert, try a chocolate marble cake with chocolate icing.



For the white part:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 110g butter, softened
  • 250g flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 125ml milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the brown part:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 130g brown sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 150ml molasses
  • 250g flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp nutmeg
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 60ml milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Butter and flour an 8cm deep x 20cm wide cake pan.
  3. Make the white part of the cake:
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed.
  5. Add half of the sugar and keep beating until the whites are stiff.
  6. Cream the butter with the rest of the sugar in a separate bowl.
  7. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add this mixture to the butter a little at a time, alternating with the milk.  Mix well after each addition.
  8. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  9. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
  10. Make the brown part of the cake:
  11. Cream the butter with the sugar.
  12. Beat in the egg yolks.
  13. Dissolve the baking soda into the molasses in a saucepan over low heat.
  14. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a separate bowl.
  15. Combine the flour mixture with the molasses mixture.
  16. Add the flour and molasses mixture to the butter and sugar a little at a time, alternating with the milk.  Mix well after each addition.
  17. Mix both the white and brown parts together:
  18. Alternately place heaped tablespoons of the white and brown mixture into the cake pan to produce a marbled effect.
  19. Bake in the preheated oven for at least an hour or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Prep Time:  20 minutes

Cooking Time:  60 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty:  Medium

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04Apr 12

Poached Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple upside down cakeLately I’ve been trying to get away from standard chocolate and white cake varieties and getting more into fruit-based cakes, like this almond cake with orchard fruits.  I guess I’m trying to fool myself into thinking they’re a bit healthier, which they are, albeit only slightly!  This poached pineapple upside-down cake is one of the more difficult ones I’ve tried and I have to admit that my first attempt didn’t turn out very well.  However, I gave it another try and it came out beautifully!  The poached pineapple offsets the brown sugar and pecans perfectly and its appearance is quite impressive too.

So arm yourself with patience and give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed with the result!


For the poached pineapple:

  • 5 fresh pineapple slices, poached and drained.
  • 400g granulated sugar
  • 200ml water
  • 50ml strained orange juice

For the sponge:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 6tbsp hot milk
  • 2 eggs, yolks separated from whites, whites stiffly beaten
  • 125g flour, sifted
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 8tbsp butter
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 65ml pecans, chopped into small pieces
  • 5 maraschino cherries


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. To poach the pineapple, stir the sugar and water together in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Use a dampened pastry brush to wipe down any stray sugar crystals that stick to the sides of the pan.  When the sugar has dissolved, bring the syrup to the boil.  Add the pineapple slices and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Gradually add half of the granulated sugar and all the milk to the egg yolks, beating steadily.
  4. Thoroughly mix in the rest of the granulated sugar, the flour and the vanilla extract.
  5. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
  6. Melt the butter in a large frying pan (about 23cm in diameter) over medium heat.
  7. Add the brown sugar and blend well.
  8. Remove the frying pan from the heat and arrange the pineapple slices and pecans symmetrically on top of the butter and sugar mixture. Place one cherry in the middle of each pineapple slice.
  9. Cover these ingredients with the batter and place the pan in the preheated oven.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Flip the cake out immediately onto a serving dish.
  12. Let the cake cool before serving.

Prep Time:  25 minutes

Cooking Time:  30 minutes

Serves:  8-10

Difficulty:  Difficult

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02Apr 12

Grandma’s Apple Pie

Grandma's Apple PieAlthough there are many versions of this traditional apple pastry, this is my grandmother’s original apple pie recipe. Rather than using traditional red baking apples, this recipe calls for tart Granny Smiths, which in my mind provide the perfect balance to the high sugar and cinnamon content in the filling.


I’ve provided instructions for making the pastry from scratch, but if you prefer, you can go ahead and use ready-made chilled or frozen crusts. I won’t tell anybody, I promise!

Another popular fruit dessert is an apple and walnut crumble. I suggest serving the both the pie and the crumble with vanilla ice cream on top.


For the crust:

  • 312g (2 1/2 cups) sifted white flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 226g (1 cup) butter, chilled and diced
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) ice water

For the filling:

  • 113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) water
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar
  • 110g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced


To make the crust:

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cut into the butter using a pastry knife and add to the bowl. Do NOT use your hands.
  3. Stir in the ice water using a spoon, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms into a ball.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 balls.
  5. Wrap the balls separately in plastic and chill for 4 hours.
  6. Roll out the balls into two flat crusts about 30 cm in diameter.
  7. Press one of the crusts firmly into the bottom and sides of a 26 cm pie dish.
  8. Cut the other crust into 1 cm wide strips (for making a latticework on the top of the pie).

To make the filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Stir in the flour to make a paste.
  4. Add the water, white granulated sugar and brown sugar, and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and let simmer on minimum heat.
  6. Fill the pie crust with the sliced apples, mounded slightly in the centre.
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.
  8. Cover with a latticework of crust from the strips you made earlier.
  9. Pour the sugar and butter mixture over the top of the latticework crust.  Pour slowly and take care that it doesn’t run over the sides.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 175º C and continue baking for 40-45 minutes until the apples are soft.
  12. Serve with cream or ice cream and enjoy!

Prep Time:  30 minutes, plus 4 hours chilling the pastry.

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty: Medium


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23Mar 12

Spicy Pumpkin Cake

Spicy Pumpkin CakeUntil quite recently, I was thoroughly convinced that the idea of putting vegetables in desserts was completely and utterly insane.  I just couldn’t get my head around the reasoning behind what seemed to me to be a ridiculous notion!  Carrot cake?! Courgette loaf?! Madness!

In any case, my opinion has changed, and it all started when I tried this Spicy Pumpkin Cake at a friend’s dinner party.  It was absolutely scrumptious!



You can use canned pumpkin purée for this recipe, but if you want it to be truly authentic, you should use fresh pumpkin.  To do so, slice, peel and seed 500 grams of fresh pumpkin and simmer until just tender (about 15 minutes), then push trough a sieve to make the purée.


  • 120 g butter, softened
  • 250 g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 625 g sifted cake flour
  • 12 g baking powder
  • 1 1/2 g baking soda
  • 2 g salt
  • 5 g ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 g ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 g ground ginger
  • 175 ml buttermilk
  • 175 ml pumpkin purée
  • 150 g finely chopped pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 180º C.
  2. Butter and flour two cake (or bread) pans and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and ginger.
  6. Sift the above a second time to make sure they are well blended.
  7. Add the sifted flour and spices mix to the egg and butter mixture and stir for a few seconds.
  8. Add the buttermilk and mix well.
  9. Add the chopped pecans and pumpkin purée, mix thoroughly.  Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure proper mixing.
  10. Pour half of the batter into each of the buttered and floured cake pans.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  12. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans and put them in the refrigerator for 45 minutes, or until cold.
  13. Serve. (Try with whipped cream or frosting for extra sweetness.)

Prep Time:  50 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty: Difficult

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