Chocolate hot cross bun loaf

Hot cross bun bread


School holidays are just a hop, skip and a jump away and many of you may be thinking about how to keep the kiddos busy over the Easter break. This time last year my kids, who LOVE their hot cross buns, and I decided to make our own buns from scratch using a recipe by Jamie Oliver, and we were all pleasantly surprised by the results. I’m not sure why we were so surprised but it was probably the combination of a potentially tricky yeast dough recipe and two small children that could have gone rather wrong, but didn’t!  They were so delicious! It was also a fun baking project for the three of us…many hands make kneading a breeze after all.


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Lemon Easter cookies

Today’s post is a bit of holiday fun for the kiddies, and given world events over the past two weeks and particularly here in S.A. I think us adults could do with a bit of fun too! In all seriousness though, this is an exceptionally tasty cookie, with or without all the icing and trimmings, and you should definitely give this recipe a try these Easter holidays!

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Sugar free banana cake (with video)

It is March and in my house that equals birthdays and lots of baking! I made this cake earlier in the month for my daughter’s school birthday and wanted to avoid added sugar but still make something delicious that the children would love. This cake has a soft, light texture and a delicate banana flavour. Rather than cover the cake with icing I drizzled it with delicious melted carob. This is a great alternative to chocolate!

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I feel as though CAKES have been my theme lately, with various celebrations that have happened over the last few months. So this week I thought it might be fun to share some of my recent cake creations with you. Let’s just clarify one thing out though – I looove to bake, but when it comes to cake decorating my skills are more on the rustic side. Some of the cakes worked out better than others, but all of them were made with love!

It all kicked off in February while I was planning my daughter’s 3rd birthday party. (Regular readers might remember my post about last year’s party which was all about Paddington Bear). I made the mistake of perusing Pinterest with her to get some ideas for her Peppa Pig cake. As we scrolled through pages and pages of stunning, perfect fondant creations there were “oohs” and “ahhs”, gasps of delight and lots of  “let’s have that one mum!” I may have set the bar a little high!   
You can imagine the conversation: “No darling, I don’t think a 4 tiered, perfectly iced extravaganza of a cake dotted with miniature models of ALL the show’s characters is on the cards this year. Or the life size model of Peppa’s house made completely out of balloons.” Something along those lines!

After a lengthy discussion with the soon to be 3 year old it was decided that the cake would feature Fairy Peppa Pig. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to construct her in a bit of a rush, but luckily dear daughter and friends were able to identify my fondant creation when the cake was presented. To be honest I was just relieved that she didn’t change her mind about the theme 10 minutes before the party.
Fairy Peppa Pig

Not long after the Peppa celebrations I was asked by a friend to make her daughter’s dinosaur birthday cake. We looked at a few ideas before settling on this cake. This is probably my favourite one as it was so much fun to assemble and really not difficult at all. I used a template that I found on the Betty Crocker website as a guide. Ta-dah!
RAWR! What do you mean you’ve never heard of a Smartiosaurus?

I made a short video showing how I assembled and decorated the dinosaur cake, you can watch it on my YouTube channel by clicking HERE.

Most of my daughter’s friends were born within a few months of each other, which means a ton of parties over a short space of time! Not to mention a lot of birthday pressies to organise. Us parents are often looking for fun things to keep the kids busy, so I put together some cupcake baking kits for the birthday boys and girls. The kits were inspired by one of our favourite books: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Inside each kit was a set of prepackaged ingredients for the vanilla cupcakes, chocolate icing, as well as all of the decorations needed to make the Gruffalo’s face. The best part for me has been receiving photos from friends of the final creations, it looked like everyone enjoyed their pressies. 
Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo!
Inbetween all of the birthdays I also tried out some butterfly cupcakes (photo below). I was considering this as a cupcake kit for the girls, but in the end I couldn’t resist making Gruffalos for everyone! It was round about the same time that I also made these Easter nest cupcakes for the Easter weekend, as well as this indulgent chocolate meringue cake which I featured on the blog earlier this year.
I wanted to make a simple cake to celebrate my son’s baptism in May. About a week before the baptism tea I made some cute little fondant baby shoes using a template I found HERE. They were easy to put together and made a lovely cake topper.
The original plan was to make a chocolate layer cake with vanilla butter icing covered in fondant icing. Unfortunately the chocolate cake I made was much too fresh and soft to withstand the weight of the fondant… so it was on to Plan B! At about 6pm the night before the baptism I started on the second cake and it all worked out quite well. I decided on a naked vanilla cake topped with the shoes that I had made beforehand – here is the final result. 

Also in May we celebrated dear husband’s birthday and he had put in a special request for his cake this year. If you are a fan of Pinterest then you definitely would have seen one of these before – a Kit Kat Smartie cake! The cake was very easy to assemble, and was a great way to use up the leftover smarties from all the Gruffalo kits I had been making. This is a very extravagant cake, but an absolute showstopper. Hubby’s birthday also happened to coincide with World Baking Day which was perfect. 

Wow, that is a lot of celebrating… and a lot of cake! I hope you have enjoyed this round up of my latest baking efforts, and maybe you have seen some ideas for your next celebration cake. What have you been baking lately?

Chocolate Easter nest cupcakes (with video)

Chocolate Easter nest cupcakes.
I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I could not believe my eyes when just one week after Christmas the supermarket shelves were already filling up with Easter eggs! Of course now that it is March you cannot maneuver your shopping trolley without bumping into a chocolate bunny but it is a bit more acceptable now that Easter is just a few days away, yay! A few weeks ago a friend sent me a photo of a beautiful Easter bird nest cake. It reminded me of some Easter cupcakes I made years ago, and I decided they would be perfect to make again and share with you this week. They will make a colourful and delicious addition to your Easter table!

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Mini Easter simnel cakes

So today we are talking fruit cake, spices and chocolate. Music to my ears… and my stomach. I am not sure how I got this far in my baking career without trying this recipe! I suppose that while traditional fruit cakes are found in abundance around Christmas time, the simnel cake is less common down here at the tip of Africa. This fruity cake adorned with marzipan is traditional around Mothering Sunday and/or Easter particularly in the U.K, and I thought I would channel my British ancestors and give it a bash this week.

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Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

There’s a little back story to this recipe which was inspired by a good friend of mine. She recently left Australia where she has been living for the past few years, and where chocolate hot cross buns are readily available, and a few hints were dropped about creating a similar recipe… I suspect that since she’ll be making her way to Cape Town in the next few weeks (and has confessed to being addicted to these) that she was actually being very serious! Well of course I accepted the challenge and thought these would be a gorgeous treat to enjoy at Easter.

A few notes on the recipe: I did try to make chocolate crosses by adding cocoa to my paste mix, however they came out of the oven looking rather grey which I didn’t find appealing so I’ve stuck with white crosses.  You’ll notice that I’ve used fairly large chocolate chunks but you could always chops yours smaller if you prefer. Also, if you don’t have a baking tin that’s exactly the right size don’t panic – I ended up using a roasting tray instead and found it worked just fine!

As far as baked goods go these chocolatey buns do require a little effort – but they’re absolutely worth it. Have a lovely Easter everyone!



Makes 12 buns

350ml milk
3/4 cup castor sugar
10g instant dry yeast
4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
4 teaspoons mixed spice
3 tablespoons cocoa
60g butter
1 large egg
150g dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup flour
6 tablespoons water 

3 tablespoons apricot jam

Step 1.) Warm the milk then stir in 1 tablespoon of the castor sugar. Add the yeast, stir for a few seconds then set aside for 10 minutes until the yeast is frothy. 

Step 2.) Meanwhile sift the flour, remaining castor sugar, salt, mixed spice and cocoa into a bowl. 

Step 3.) Melt the butter and add to the yeast mixture. Add the egg then whisk everything lightly with a fork. 

Step 4.) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is combined.

Step 5.) Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface, then knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and springy. If the dough gets sticky you can always add a little more flour as you go. Knead in the chocolate chunks. 

Step 6.) Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. 

Step 7.) Tip the dough out again and knock it down with your fists. Grease a baking tin (roughly 20 x 23cm) and divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and arrange them in the tray. Cover again and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 

Step 8.) Meanwhile preheat your oven to 200°C and prepare the paste by mixing the flour and water until smooth. 

Step 9.) Using a piping bag or a small plastic bag with the end snipped off, pipe the flour paste over the tops of the buns to form crosses. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. You’ll know the buns are done when they sound hollow when tapped on the base. 

Step 10.) Melt the apricot jam in the microwave or a saucepan, and brush over the hot buns. Serve fresh from the oven with butter or jam or, my favourite, toasted.