Flapjacks: The 1980s teatime edition

A lot has changed since the 1980s. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs have shrunk to 1/8 of their previous proportions (probably). Children’s television lasts indefinitely, as opposed to the 90 precious minutes after you got in from school. The less said about My Little Pony’s fate, the better. And flapjacks have forgotten their roots.

The 2013 flapjack is still delicious. But it is buttery and soft and rather bland on its own, hence the trend for studding them with berries and chocolate and the like. But the 1980s teatime flapjack could stand its ground without any adornments. Buttery and sweet yes, but also fiery with ginger and a tang of lemon. Relentlessly chewy, the only accompaniment it needed was a can of Tizer and an episode of Count Duckula.

This is my attempt at recreating the 1980s flapjack. I am not sure whether I am quite there yet, but the spicy citrus smell that filled my kitchen as it baked suggests…

1980s Flapjacks


175g unsalted butter
175g golden syrup
175g soft light brown sugar
2tsps ground ginger
The zest of one lemon
350g porridge oats

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Line an 8 inch square tin with baking paper. Set aside.

2) Over a medium heat (and indeed, in a medium saucepan), melt together the butter, golden syrup and sugar until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger and lemon.

3) Pour in the oats and stir until well combined, occasionally spooning a bit into your mouth. Spread evenly into your prepared tin, preferably using your hands so that you can eat more mixture.

4) Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tin on a rack, then remove. Try to save cutting it up until it has cooled through, or you’ll end up with some rather messy bits that fall apart and demand to be eaten immediately. Not always a bad thing.

Store Cupboard Lemon Drizzle Cake

Despite the fact I love its enveloping stickiness and lengthy tin life, I rarely make lemon drizzle cake. This is because I never have a lemon. Any lemon that enters my household is quickly dispatched to float in a gin and tonic in lieu of limes, halved and shoved up a chicken’s bottom or sentenced to languish in the fruit bowl til green and furry. Coupled with the misery of cleaning a lemon zester, the flour, eggs and butter instantly become a Victoria sponge.

However, I recently discovered that you can buy very good lemon extract to take the place of lemon zest. It gives all the depth of flavour, but without the need for actual lemons. Sainsbury’s Sicilian Lemon Extract is particularly good. Add to that bottled lemon juice – found next to the pancake mix – I can now create lemon drizzle cake on a whim. And have done frequently since this discovery.

This is one of the few times that I will suggest the faff of a loaf tin liner, as all the delicious lemony syrup can effortlessly weld your cake to the bottom of the tin.


Lemon Drizzle Cake

Cooking time: 1 hour plus cooling

You’ll need: a lined 2lb loaf tin and a skewer for pricking the cake


125g lightly salted butter
175g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps lemon extract
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100ml milk

For the syrup:

125ml lemon juice
100g icing sugar

For the glaze:

50ml lemon juice
150g icing sugar

1) Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Line your cake tin, ‘gluing’ the liner securely with a bit of butter.

2) Cream the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer til pale and fluffy. Keep beating as you add the eggs, milk and lemon extract.

3) Carefully fold in the flour and baking powder, adding a little more milk if it becomes too stiff or grainy. Dollop into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. This will be a delightfully moist cake, so don’t worry about giving it a few extra minutes.

4) While the cake is in the oven, make your syrup. Put the lemon juice and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat and let it cool. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven it’s time to go postal on your cake. Grab a skewer, picture your ex boyfriend’s smug stupid face and start stabbing. Be careful not to injure yourself or stab through the lining of the tin. Pour over the cooled syrup and let the cake cool completely in its tin.

5) When cooled, combine the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice into a delicious gunky paste. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake with gay abandon. Try to let it set a little before hacking into it.


Jam Roly Poly: Because baby it’s cold outside…


Like the rest of Britain, my little corner of the Shire is caked in snow. What better reason to stay indoors, crank up the oven – particularly if your heating is as ineffective as mine – and bake something to keep you warm?

Jam roly poly is one of my top puddings and despite falling out of favour for a few years, is beginning to return to the height of tea time popularity.

Part of the reason many people recoil from this delicious treat is the fact it contains suet. You may not think that your desserts have been lacking in rendered beef fat, but they have. The technical details of what suet is fail to mention the light unctuous flavour of pastries and puddings made with it. If you are currently retching into a bucket reading this, vegetarian suet is available, although it never seems as rich to me and yields a slightly stodgier result.

It’s worth mentioning that jam roly poly hails from a time when food was scarce and every calorie counted… in the opposite way to how it does now. This is not something you want to eat every day, but building all those snowmen is going to take fuel.

I can only offer one serving suggestion for this:


Judge, lest not ye be judged…

Jam Roly Poly 
Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes


250g self raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
150g suet (veggie if you must)
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup raspberry jam
An egg, beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcium. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Plonk in the suet and just enough water to create a soft, but not too sticky dough.

2) Pop your dough onto a floured work surface and try to shape it roughly into a rectangle. Aim for 8 x 12 and about 1cm thick. Place it landscape in front of you. Now for the nerve wracking bit.

3) Zap your jam in the microwave for 30 seconds and grab a pastry brush. Generously paint your flat poly with jam, leaving a 1cm border around the edge. When you’re done, fold the jamless border in on to itself, to encase the lovely jammy centre.

4) Take a deep breath (or a swig of wine), and begin rolling the roly poly up like a giant swissroll. Move steadily, trying to keep straight but keeping it tight. Tightness is paramount. Transfer to a greased baking sheet as elegantly as you can manage.

ImageYes, it’s winning no beauty contests, and somewhat resembling my pale, cellulitey thigh after eating too much of it.

5) Generously cover your roly poly with beaten egg to make it a little prettier, then whack it in the oven for 40 minutes. You should probably spend that time doing push ups.

6) Remove from the oven and allow to cool very briefly, before slicing generously, covering in custard and thoroughly enjoying.

A word of warning… you must roll this tightly. If you don’t, it might just lose its lovely Swiss roll shape and become a bit rounder…

ImageStill delicious. And we’re snowed in, so nobody is going to be round to see it.

Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake


There is a reason this post has only one picture.

It’s because this is by far my favourite cake in the world. It’s the cake I make most often, the cake that is devoured most regularly by my friends and family and quite possibly one of the most important components of my last meal.

And before I could fire up my good camera and dig out a pretty cake plate, it was gone.

Behold, the coffee and walnut cake.

I have named this Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake as my dear friend Justin is the only person who loves this cake more than I do. An otherwise kind and gentle man, I could see him starting a fist fight for a minute sliver of this cake.

The recipe that follows is entirely my own, although I have never before written it out. I complete it on auto pilot so often that it never occurred to me how much of everything went into it.


One ingredient I must insist on is Camp Coffee. It’s a thick sludgy emulsion of coffee, sugar and chicory that your grandparents are likely to have kept in the cupboards as standard. As revolting as the description sounds, it’s absolutely delicious and makes the cake taste like the sweet aromatic tea time treats of yesteryear. I have tried numerous recipes that substitute cooled espresso, instant coffee powder, etc. but nothing compares.

You’ll find it in the supermarket at the very edge of the tea and coffee aisle, or occasionally tucked away with the home baking ingredients.

And secondly… always weigh your eggs.

It seems pointless, especially with the stringent sizing laws on eggs these days, but by weighing the eggs and adding equal quantities of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar, I’m yet to have a sponge cake fail on me. The amounts given below are typical for a four-egg sponge but adjust as necessary.

Finally… despite all my fancy kitchen equipment, I always make a sponge cake in the food processor. In this case, the icing too. I add an extra teaspoon of baking powder out of fear that there’s not enough air in there, but it’s probably me worrying too much about the possibility of missing out on perfect cake.

Justin’s Coffee and Walnut Cake

Serves: 10 (technically)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes


225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Four large eggs
225g self raising flour
3 tablespoons Camp Coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder
A splash of milk (optional)

For the icing:

150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar (no need to sift if using the mighty food processor)
2 tablespoons Camp Coffee (or more, to taste)

75g walnuts, chopped, to decorate

1) Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Grease and flour two deep 9 or 10 inch sandwich tins.

2) In the food processor, or with a hand mixer, or even with a good arm and a wooden spoon, combine the butter and the caster sugar. Cream until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes in the food processor.

3) Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that each one is accompanied by a tablespoon of flour and thoroughly combined before the next one is added. Then dump in the rest of the flour and the baking powder, if using. The mixture should have a similar consistency to thick custard – if that’s not the case, loosen it with a little milk.

4) Finally, pour in the coffee. The cake mix should now be the colour of dulche leche… mmm…

5) Divide between your two prepared sandwich tins and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Allow to bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly cracked on top and springing back when poked. If they appear to be browning too quickly, pop a little foil on top. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack, removing from their tins after five minutes. Allow to cool completely.

6) Use this time to get to work on your icing. Place the butter, icing sugar and coffee in the food processor and blitz til creamy. Scrape down the sides and repeat. It’s worth noting that this makes just enough icing to sandwich the cakes together and cover the top – I usually make a little more for eating straight off the spoon.

7) When the cakes are cool, sandwich them together with half of the icing, using the rest to cover the top. Add a scattering of chopped walnuts, put the kettle on and prepare to gorge.

Just don’t tell Justin. Unless you are willing to share.