Tag Archives: cake

Classic chocolate cupcakes

25 Mar

A classic, moist, dark chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

A few years ago, before I even considered changing careers from music to food, I was already a huge fan of food TV. I watched Nigella, Jamie and Bill religiously on BBC Food (now BBC Lifestyle), and made notes now and then to remember some of their recipes.

One of the recipes that survived in my scribbled recipe notebook, was a basic cupcake recipe from Nigella Lawson. While she was demonstrating the easy steps, I was trying to write it down – only getting cryptic notes of ingredients and some of the method. Not knowing back then that I could have just checked the full recipe online, I tried to make sense of my scribbles later that day. The great thing is, the recipe is so very simple and absolutely fool proof that I have made dozens of batches of these over the years. For chocolate cupcakes, I just substitute two heaped tablespoons of flour for two heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder.

More recently, I looked up the original recipe. Nigella uses royal icing for her cupcakes, but I prefer a rich and fluffy buttercream frosting. Use whatever you prefer.

These chocolate cupcakes always deliver in terms of taste and texture. (Photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Ingredients: (makes 12)

Note: Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before you start. It makes a big difference to the texture. Also, a digital scale will make your life a lot easier for this recipe.

  • 75 g cake flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder (for vanilla cupcakes, leave the cocoa powder out and just use 125 g of cake flour in total)
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 2.5 ml baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • a small pinch of salt
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 30 ml milk


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Place all of the ingredients except the milk in a food processor, and pulse to mix thoroughly. Scrape down the sides.
  3. With the motor running, add the milk and process for a further 1 minute until the mixture becomes very smooth. Now use 2 dessert spoons to drop the batter into the cupcake tin holes, spreading the mixture to fill all 12 holes (it always looks like it’s not enough, but trust me – it is).
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cooked and golden on top (an inserted skewer should come out clean). Remove from the oven and transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • 125 g soft butter (very soft, but not melted)
  • 200 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50 g cocoa powder, sifted (or less if you don’t like it to be too dark)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 15-30 ml milk


  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), then use an electric whisk to beat it until pale and creamy (takes about 2-3 minutes).
  2. Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder a little at a time, mixing until it is thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla and a little milk and whisk to get a light and fluffy texture, but don’t add too much milk or the mixture won’t hold shape.
  3. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice, then pipe the icing on top of the cupcakes. Don’t refrigerate them, as the icing will become hard and unpleasant to eat. Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The mixture makes exactly 12 cupcakes. I love their cracked tops. (Photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe adaptation, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Cheat’s “macarons” with jam and cream

4 Sep

Cheat’s macarons, filled with cream and jam (Photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is a universal love all over the world for cake with cream and jam; it’s an age-old trend. You’ll find it in the form of swiss rolls, cream cakes, cupcakes, whoopie pies, scones and cookies – it’s just one of those combos that work.

These soft little cookies were made from regular cupcake batter, piped onto a lined baking sheet, then filled with a swirl of jam and cream. And yes, they resemble French macarons. But they are so much easier to make than macarons, with none of the frustration or effort!

You can also fill these treats with caramel or your favourite version of butter icing. They are delicate, yet really simple – perfect for a special teatime treat.

Ingredients for batter:

  • 125 g cake flour
  • 125 g butter (soft)
  • 125 g sugar
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 2.5 ml baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla essence
  • 30 ml milk


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor, then process for about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides, then process again. With the motor running, add the milk, then process for another 30 seconds until the mixture becomes very silky and smooth.
  3. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a relatively small nozzle, then pipe the batter in circles of about 2-3cm in diameter, leaving enough space inbetween for rising.
  4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. They should be firm and lightly straw coloured, but not brown.
  5. Remove the cookies from the oven, then carefully transfer them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat this process to use up all the batter.

Ingredients for the jam and cream swirl filling:

  • about 1/2 cup berry jam (I used black currant jam)
  • 250 ml cream
  • icing sugar for dusting


  1. If the jam you are using is quite chunky, use a stick blender and a tall cup to process it to a smooth pulp. This will make it easier to pipe.
  2. Whisk the cream in a separate mixing bowl until just stiff (but not too stiff), then gently stir in the smooth jam – it doesn’t have to be mixed completely.
  3. Transfer the cream and jam mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle of your choice, then pipe the mixture on the inside of the cooled cookies. Use more cookies to close them up like little sandwiches. Dust with icing sugar, then serve.

PS: You can also just use thick cream or cream cheese and chunky jam to spread it onto the cookies with a knife – the 2 separate layers also look quite beautiful!

Cheat’s macarons (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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Red velvet cake

15 Apr

Luscious red velvet cake with vanilla buttercream icing (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

It seems that there’s a red velvet cake revival every 2 years. In fact, I did a post on red velvet cupcakes exactly 2 years ago (on the 28th of March). But I’m telling you, that revival has been going on for decades. Just as you think people have forgotton the craze, they tend to get back on the wagon.

So here I am, on the red velvet wagon again. Why? Because this cake seriously is a thing of beauty.  It’s not only a normal cake with a load of red food colouring – it’s a fluffy, moist, velvety creation like no other. You just need to look at it to understand that this is the royal Duchess of cakes.

This recipe is slightly different to the cupcake recipe and makes 2 layers that you can sandwich together (I slice them each in half horizontally to create 4 thin layers). I prefer to use a vanilla buttercream icing that is whipped like cream, I prefer the colour and texture of this to a cream cheese icing or a mascarpone icing.

This is the perfect “high tea” cake.

Ingredients for cake: (recipe adapted from “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection” by Heilie Pienaar)

  •  125 butter, softened
  • 210 g caster sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 30 ml red food colouring (or “crimson pink”)
  • 15 ml milk
  • 30 ml cocoa powder
  • 280 g cake flour
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 250 ml buttermilk
  • 5 ml bicarbonate of soda
  • 15 ml white vinegar
  • 5 ml vanilla essence


  1. Grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake tins, and pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Using electric beaters, cream butter and sugar. Now add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat untill the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the food colouring and milk, then beat well.
  4. Sift the cocoa powder, cake flour and salt together. Add half the dry ingredients, then half the buttermilk. Mix well, now add the remaining half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk, and mix well.
  5. Dissolve the bicarb into the vinegar, then add it to the mixture along with the vanilla.  Fold it in with a spatula, then pour into the greased pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven, then leave in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream frosting:

  • 250 g butter, very soft
  • seeds of one vanilla pod
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted (powdered confectioner’s sugar)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

Whisk/beat butter and vanilla seeds until very light in colour and fluffy, for around 3-5 minutes.  Add icing sugar a little at a time, and beat/whisk at low-speed untill it starts to come together, then on high-speed untill light and creamy. Add milk and whisk further Put in piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

A slice of red velvet delight… (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe.

Recipe testing and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

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Angel cake with white chocolate ganache and banana cream

19 Feb

Angel cake with white chocolate ganache and banana cream filling (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This Valentines Day will mark the 1 year anniversary of working with the fabulous food team from The Pretty Blog, Nicola and Tasha. I wrote my first post for TPB exactly one year ago for a dark chocolate tart with fresh berries, and we felt so exhilarated with the results of our very first picture!

But more importantly, this year on the 14th of February I’ll also be celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary. So many things great things have happened in my life over the past year, and I am so very thankful for the overwhelming support and love from my family! One year ago, I was still struggling to get to grips with my choice to make a complete career change from the music management industry to the food industry as a writer and recipe developer. Things weren’t always easy and I (we) had to make a lot of sacrifices. One year later, I am so excited about where I’m heading, with extremely exciting projects lined up for 2013 and 2014. But the biggest thing that I have learnt over the past year, is how important my husband and my little daughter are to me, and how very lucky I am to have them both in my life.

If there was ever an angel, it is my husband, Schalk. We have been together for 13 years, and he has been my absolute rock. These days it is very rare to find a love that is so complete and so full of joy, friendship and adventure. I love him even more today than the day we got married.

Ingredients for angel cake:

  • 175 g cake flour
  • 15 ml baking powder
  • 5 ml cream of tartar
  • 2 ml salt
  • 45 g cornflour
  • 12 XL egg whites
  • 315 g caster sugar
  • 2 ml almond essence

Ingredients for white chocolate ganache:

  • 160 g white chocolate (I used 2 x 80g slabs of Nestlé Milky Bar)
  • 150 ml fresh cream

Ingredients for banana cream filling:

  •  250 ml cream
  • 15 ml caster sugar
  • 5 ml vanilla essence (or 2 ml vanilla extract)
  • 1 banana, mashed

Method for angel cake:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and cornflour.
  3. In another large mixing bowl, beat/whisk egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the caster sugar while whisking continuously, until you reach medium peak stage (between soft peaks and stiff peaks). Add the almond essence and whisk for a few seconds.
  4. Add dry ingredients to egg whites, then fold in gently with a metal spoon until the mixture is smooth. Pour into an ungreased 24 cm loose bottomed angel cake pan or ring pan (I used a normal loose bottomed cake pan and placed a drinking glass in the middle to create the distinctive angel cake hole).
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until done, then remove from the oven and leave in the pan to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

Method for white chocolate ganache:

  1. Break chocolate into small blocks into a glass mixing bowl.
  2. On the stove top in a small sauce pan, bring the cream to a boil, then quickly remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Leave to melt for 2-3 minutes, then stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool to the desired consistency while filling the cake with the banana cream (I love a slightly more spreadable ganache, but you can also drizzle it over the cake white it is still a bit warm and slightly runny).

Method for banana cream:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the cream, sugar and vanilla. Whip the mixture with a whisk or electric beaters, until it is stiff enough to hold shape (don’t over-beat!)
  2. Add the mashed banana, then fold it into the cream. Use a sharp knife to cut the cake horizontally in 2 layers, then fill generously with the banana cream and carefully put the top layer back in place. Then spread/drizzle the top with the white chocolate ganache.

PS: I used Heilie Pienaar’s recipe for angel cake from her new book “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection”. She used a passion fruit glaze icing for her cake, but I prefer to top mine with a decadent white chocolate ganache and fill it with a banana cream filling.

PPS: This cake is best the next day, but the banana cream have a tendency to turn dark after 24 hours. My advice would be to make the cake ahead (the previous day), store it in an airtight container, then fill and ice the cake a few hours before serving.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

Plate: Poetry

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Custard cake

6 Sep

Custard cake from my childhood (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in our neighbourhood in Uniepark, Stellenbosch. There were many other children around, and we would play in the park across our house until night time. I had many friends, and a few of us shared a classroom from primary school to matric. I still remain friends with a couple of these amazing childhood friends, as it seems that we were interwoven in each others lives forever – almost like family.

One of these special women is Martinette Basson (previously De Jongh).  Her Dad worked with my Dad at the University, and her Mom was a highly respected nurse. They always had the BEST snacks at their birthday parties (she had an older sister and a younger brother), and we used to bake cookies and make fudge at each other’s houses. We also had the most amazing sleepover parties, which always included a midnight feast where we raided the pantry. Those were great times!

Unfortunately, Martinette’s Dad passed away a few years ago, and she moved back from the UK with her young family to spend some time at her Mom’s house in Stellenbosch. I attended a baby shower of her youngest daughter, and had the most amazing custard cake – her Mom’s recipe – complete blast from the past! This was the cake that I had dreamt about for years, not being able to find the recipe anywhere, nor buy a similar cake in any shop. I asked for the recipe, and she wrote it down for me on her Mom’s customised writing pad (it says “From the desk of Elza de Jongh”). I stuck the piece of paper in my recipe book, and it has since collected a few yellow “baking marks”, showing just how popular the recipe is!

Sadly, Martinette’s Mom passed away shortly after I had gotten the recipe. She was a formidable women, quietly spoken, but such an inspiration to all of us. I now think of her every time I see the handwritten recipe “from the desk of Elza de Jongh” for custard cake. I’m sure she is smiling at how much joy this recipe has brought to our family!

Tannie Elza, no-one can beat your custard cake! We miss you!

Note: This recipe is all about the custard icing. Please use any sponge cake recipe that you are comfortable with – I like the warm milk method, and I use a little less sugar than tannie Elsa’s original cake batter recipe. But don’t tweak anything about the custard icing – it looks a little curdled, but that is exactly what it should look like! 🙂

Ingredients for sponge cake:

  •  4 eggs
  • 300 ml (250 g) caster sugar
  • 500 ml (280 g) cake flour
  • 15 ml baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250 ml milk
  • 100 g butter
  • 5 ml vanilla essence


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Grease and/or line 2 x 20 cm round cake tins.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, then fold into egg mixture.
  4. Heat milk and butter until butter is melted, but don’t let it boil. Add vanilla, then fold into flour and egg mixture.
  5. Pour batter into lined cake tins, then bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked and golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven, and cool on wire racks.

Ingredients for Custard icing:

  • 500 ml milk
  • 100 ml custard powder (I use Moirs)
  • 125 g butter at room temperature
  • 200 ml caster sugar
  • 5 ml vanilla essence
  • 100 ml desiccated coconut, toasted to a golden brown in a dry pan


  1. Dissolve the custard powder in 100 ml milk. Heat remaining 400 ml milk until boiling point, then add custard mixture and stir for a few minutes over lowered heat until it is smooth and thick. Take care not to let it burn.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and vanilla for a few minutes until creamy.
  3. Add cooled custard to butter mixture, then beat on high speed for about 3 minutes until smooth. It will look slightly curdled, that is perfect!
  4. Spread custard on cake layers and on top, then top with toasted coconut.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe

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Carrot cake with dates and pecans

12 Jul

Carrot cake with dates and pecans (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

Somehow I always feel a bit less guilty when indulging in carrot cake instead of chocolate cake, or any other cake for that matter. The carrots, raisins, dates and pecan nuts surely are very good for my health, I’d tell myself. And also, cream cheese icing must be full of calcium and general “dairy goodness”. Well, I suppose the happiness that a slice of carrot cake brings, far exceeds the kilojoules. 😉

So here is my recipe for a delicious, chunky, nutty, moist carrot cake, filled with the fruity goodness of raisins and dates. I top it with a rich cream cheese icing – almost the same that I use for my lemon and poppy seed cake – so versatile and utterly scrumptious.

This cake is even better on the second and third day, as it absorbs some of the wetness of the icing over time. Serve on it’s own, or with a dollop of freshly whipped cream (my Mother’s indulgent way).


  • 4 eggs
  • 375 ml (315 g) caster sugar
  • 250 ml vegetable oil
  • 500 ml (280 g) cake flour
  • 10 ml (2 t) baking powder
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 t) salt
  • 5 ml (1 t) fine cinnamon
  • 5 ml (1 t) fine ginger
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 t) fine nutmeg
  • 2,5 ml baking soda
  • 750 ml (375) grated carrot
  • 125 ml seedless raisins
  • 50 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 125 ml finely chopped dried dates  (about 10-12 dried dates)

Ingredients for cream cheese icing:

  • 230 g cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 100 g butter (at room temperature)
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 5 ml vanilla essence
  • 50 g pecan nuts, chopped (to garnish on top)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add oil and mix well.
  4. Sift dry ingredients together, then fold into wet mixture with a metal spoon.
  5. Now fold in raisins, dates, pecans and carrots.
  6. Pour batter into 2 x 20 cm lined cake tins, then bake for 35-40 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven, then let it stand in the tins for about 15 minutes before turning out. Cool completely before icing.
  8. For icing: beat cream cheese and butter together until very light and creamy – about 10 minutes. Add icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 2 minutes until smooth and lump free. Spread on first layer, top with second layer, then ice the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle with chopped pecan nuts.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

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Glazed lemon and coconut loaf

11 May

Zesty lemon & coconut loaf with a lemon glaze

My second Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday – our beautiful daughter is 1 and a half years old. My husband will be returning from Johannesburg on Sunday morning and we have decided to spend the day at home, treating the three of us to the most delicious tea-time, lunch and dinner treats. For morning tea we will be having this fabulous zesty lemon & coconut loaf, topped with a sharp, sweet lemon glaze. It is light and fluffy, yet moist, and is perfect with a comforting cup of rooibos tea. I used Sasko Quick Treats Vanilla Flavoured Muffin Mix as a basis for the loaf – it takes all of the effort out of baking!

The rest of our menu is already planned: it involves proper Greek Lamb Moussaka for lunch, cheddar scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam for afternoon tea, and spinach & feta soup for dinner. I can’t wait to treat the 2 most special people in my life…

Ingredients for loaf:

  • 1 x packet Sasko Quick Treats Vanilla Flavoured Muffin Mix
  • 140 ml vegetable oil
  • 120 ml milk
  • 2 XL eggs
  • grated rinds of 2 large lemons
  • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Ingredients for glaze:

  • 60 ml icing sugar
  • 1 and a half teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix oil, milk and eggs well using a whisk or electric beaters. Add muffin mix and whisk for 1 minute.
  3. Add lemon rinds, coconut and lemon juice, then fold in with a metal spoon. Pour batter into a greased loaf tin (+- 20 x 10 x 7 cm) and bake for 50-60 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  4. Turn out on a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  5. Make glaze: mix icing sugar and lemon juice together, then drizzle on cooled loaf. Serve at room temperature with tea.
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Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake

9 May

Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The food team at The Pretty Blog have recently started talking about sharing our ultimate classic recipes, starting with 3 of the best chocolate cakes. That means not only me, but also Nicola (the editor) and Tasha (the photographer) have baked their favourite chocolate cakes! All 3 cakes were DELICIOUS, really moist, and really luxurious. Check out Nicola and Tasha’s recipes here.

Donna Hay’s chocolate buttermilk layer cake:

The reason that I love this cake so much, is that it is really moist and dense – the recipe does not include any baking powder, but rather buttermilk and a small amount of baking soda. It delivers big time on the wow factor as well! I double the recipe for maximum height and effect, and it’s always a hit. The chocolate cream cheese icing is also ultra smooth and almost tastes like a rich chocolate mousse.

Ingredients: (makes one medium sized cake with 2 layers, but I double the recipe to make one large cake with 4 layers, baking it in 2 batches)

1 cup (250 ml) water

125 g butter, cubed

1/3 cup (35 g) cocoa powder, sifted

2 cups (300 g) flour, sifted

1 t (5 ml) baking soda, sifted (bicarbonate of soda)

2 cups (440 g) caster sugar

2 eggs

½ cup (125 ml) buttermilk

1 t (5 ml) vanilla essence/extract

For the frosting: (Donna uses 500 g cream cheese, but I found that 250 g is sufficient)

100 g butter, softened

250 g cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

½ cup (50 g) cocoa powder, sifted


  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C.
  2. Place water, butter and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter has melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Place flour, baking soda and sugar in a bowl, add the cocoa mixture and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine. Divide mixture between 2 greased and lined 20 cm round cake tins, then bake for 40-45 min or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  5. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on wire racks to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting: place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6-8 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for a further 6-8 minutes until light and fluffy.
  7. To assemble, slice off the round tops of each cake layer to produce 2 smooth, flat layers (I use a long blade sharp knife). Place one layer on a plate, spread with frosting, then put remaining half on top and cover with frosting.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Pictures: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

Nicola, Ilse and Tasha’s ultimate chocolate cakes (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


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Raspberry macaroon cake

7 May

Raspberry macaroon cakes, big and small, topped with cream and fresh raspberries

This is a fantastic recipe: it’s a vanilla sponge cake/Hertzoggie/macaroon/pavlova – all in one! The vanilla sponge base is covered with sticky raspberry jam, topped with an almond flavoured coconut macaroon-layer and served with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. I’ll be making it live on Expresso on Tuesday morning around 06h45, so tune in to watch how easy it is to make. I used Sasko’s Quick Treats Vanilla Flavoured Muffin Mix as a basis for the cake.

I baked it in a Le Creuset heart-shaped stoneware casserole, because the dish is such a great Mother’s Day gift. You can give your Mom a beautiful cake, baked inside her new present! Yuppiechef will be giving away this fantastic casserole to one lucky viewer tomorrow morning.

Ingredients: (makes 2 medium-sized cakes, or about 12-18 muffin-sized cakes)

  • 1 x 500g Sasko Quick Treats Vanilla Flavoured Muffin Mix
  • 140ml vegetable oil
  • 120ml milk
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 170g (1/2 cup) raspberry jam (I used Melissa’s Raspberry Jam)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Beat the oil, milk and egg together with electric beaters in a mixing bowl, then add the muffin mixture and beat on low-speed for 1 minute.
  3. Divide batter between 2 greased 20cm round baking dishes/cake tins, or spoon into 12-18 muffin molds, and spread the batter with raspberry jam (or make one medium cake and 6-8 small muffin-sized cakes).
  4. Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and whisk until thick and glossy.
  5. Fold in the coconut and almond essence with a metal spoon. Spoon it over the jam.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes (small cakes) or 35-40 minutes (medium cakes) until the meringue on top is turning slightly brown and the cake is cooked through. Tip: place medium and larger cakes on the oven rack below the middle to prevent the top from turning too dark before the cake is done.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before carefully turning out smaller cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Medium and larger cakes to be served straight from the baking dish.

Important tip: For this specific recipe, do not bake the whole cake mixture in one deep dish, the cake will still be raw when the meringue mixture is done. Rather use several smaller baking dishes, and use only a thin layer of cake batter per dish.

Recipe by Katelyn Williams, Creative Director at Expresso Breakfast Show, SABC3.

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Lemon poppy seed cake

11 Apr

Lemon poppy seed cake (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

A lovely long Easter weekend has just gone by. To most of us, that meant eating lots of easter eggs, hot cross buns, proper Sunday roasts and other special treats.

When I was still at school, one of my best friends’ Mom would stock up their pantry with the most amazing array of sweets and chocolates for Easter. My friend would call it a “gold mine”, when the pantry was stocked like that. But sometimes, the pantry was really impressively stocked. I mean really stocked. Filled to the brim with all the chocolate you could imagine, all kinds of easter eggs and bunnies, loads of different chocolates, sweets and candies, savoury snacks, chips – you name it. She would then call it an “oil mine”. We would sleep over at her house and raid the pantry to our heart’s content. Those were the days!

I rarely buy easter eggs anymore, I prefer home-baked grown-up treats like this lemon and poppy seed cake. It is soaked in a lemon & sugar syrup, then covered with rich cream cheese frosting – a truly decadent and deliciously moist cake. The recipe comes from my trusted “Huisgenoot Top 500 Wenresepte” – an absolute classic. I use my own version of cream cheese frosting, the same that I use for icing carrot cakes.

Ingredients for cake:

  • 250 g butter
  • 350 ml caster sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 450 ml cake flour
  • 10 ml (2 t ) baking powder
  • 2 ml (1/2 t) salt
  • 60 ml (4 T) water
  • 45 ml (3 T) lemon juice
  • 80 ml (1/2 cup) poppy seeds


  1. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Grease a 24 cm ring pan very well (line sides with baking paper if you can).
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Then add lemon rind and beat.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder, then mix water and lemon juice. Now fold in half the dry ingredients, then half the wet ingredients. Repeat with other half of dry and wet until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add poppy seeds and mix well.
  4. Pour in the prepared cake pan and bake 40-45 min or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Ingredients for syrup:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice


Heat sugar, water and lemon juice until sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil. Pour over hot cake as soon as it comes from the oven, then let it cool completely in the pan (I leave it overnight).

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:

  • 175 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 100 g butter, at room temperature
  • 250 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 5 ml (1 t) vanilla essence


With electric beaters, beat cream cheese and butter well untill light and fluffy. Now add icing sugar and vanilla and beat untill smooth and creamy. Carefully turn out cooled cake on a platter, cover with icing and sprinkle with poppy seeds.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Pictures: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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