Archive of ‘Ask the Expert’ category

FAQ: How to use Sugar Syrup on Cakes?

FAQ: How to use Sugar Syrup on Cakes?

Sugar Syrup

Ahhh Sugar Syrup. My new and most amazing discovery! It’s the small things that seem to make the biggest difference in my baking. I hadn’t even heard of sugar syrup until I went to the Peggy Porschen sugar roses class last year. I mean I had heard of it but I just thought it was something people added to give a cake more taste – like with lemon cakes and the like, but no. I was wrong.

What sugar syrup does

One of the ladies at the sugar roses class had also been to one of the Peggy Porschen cake baking classes and she mentioned how sugar syrup had completely changed her cakes. They’re now super moist. The trick – as she told me, is to brush sugar syrup directly onto a warm cake once it comes out of the oven. This basically stops the cake from continuing to bake in it’s very hot tin once it’s removed from the oven – preventing it from drying out. The added water keeps the cake super moist.

So armed with this information I gave it a go and do you know what? It’s worked on every single cake I’ve made so far! Madeira cake, chocolate cake, Victoria sponge cake and even cupcakes – actually especially cupcakes!

The Ingredients

I’ve tried out a few different recipes but the general rule of thumb is to use the same amount in grams of sugar as millilitres in water then add a dash of flavour. The following quantity is suitable for an 8″ cake. You will have some left over though. Don’t be tempted to use it all.

  • 100g sugar – granulated/ caster/ golden – anything goes
  • 100ml water
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence / lemon juice / almond/ orange essence
  1. In a saucepan heat the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the flavour and leave to cool. I make my sugar syrup when the cake goes into the oven.
  2. Once your cake is removed from the oven let it sit for 5 minutes then use a pastry brush to brush the sugar syrup over the entire cake. You only need to cover each area of the cake once and avoid soaking the cake or you will end up with a big soggy mess not a nice moist cake. Make sure you get the edges of the cake covered as they tend to dry out the most.
  3. Leave for a further 10 minutes before turning your cake out onto a rack to cool completely.

Top tip: I use a bristle brush as it is easier to control the sugar syrup than with a silicon one. It also stops you adding too much in one go.


Another sugar syrup tip.

Another time I saw sugar syrup being used was at the Squires Kitchen cake show. During her workshop Helen Mansey brushed her cake (which was baked the day before) with sugar syrup when she was stacking the layers. She added a light coating of syrup to the top of each cake using a pastry brush in exactly the same way as described above before she covered each cake layer with chocolate ganache. I’ve never seen that done before but she said that it keeps the cake moist as she bakes a cake on a Monday and decorates it ready for delivery on Friday/Saturday. She said the cake would still be okay to eat a week after the wedding. I’m not sure cake would last that long in my house but it’s good to know.

So, do you use sugar syrup? What flavours do you use? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below and share your tried and tested recipes with the whole baking gang.



Win tickets to Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Exhibition 2015,

Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Exhibition 2015,

It’s competition time here at and the prize is a pair of tickets to one of my favorite cake decorating shows of the year.

Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Exhibition 2015

The Squires show was actually the first ever cake decorating show I went to and I’ve been coming back year after year. Some shows are all about the stands selling tons of gadgets and goodies – which I know we all love, but this show is more about the bakers and decorators than just the shoppers. You come away with a ton of new tips and techniques as well as new tools. The stands have so many experts showing you how to use tappits/ make model heads and flowers / use porcelain paste- that you actually feel like you’ve been to one big cake decorating workshop! There are plenty of free tutorials with the Squires experts. Last year I took mum with me and we watched Mark Tiling do his thing with chocolate. Very inspiring.

For mum and I the highlight of the show is always seeing the amazing creations in the cake competitions. Hundreds of wedding cakes, cupcakes and painted cakes and more all made by bakers like you and me are on display and they’re just breathtaking. Some people are so talented. You can see some of the designs from the post I wrote about the show last year.

Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Exhibition 2015, competiton

Tickets are £12.95 per person and visitors can enjoy up to 36 theatre demonstrations, 105 hours rolling demonstrations, hundreds of display pieces and much more over the weekend.

For more information on the show and to buy tickets, visit or call 084561 71 810 or +44 (0)1252 260 260.

Ticket prices:Adult £12.95, Bring a friend tickets: 2 adults £22, Bring a friend tickets: 3 adults £30

Please note that this is a ticket-only event.

How to enter

Squires Kitchen have offered one pair of free one day tickets to Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating and Sugarcraft Exhibition 2015! The show will be held at the Farnham Maltings in Surrey from 13th–15th March. Please note that the prize doesn’t include transport and is for UK entrants only. You will be able to select which one day is most suitable for you.

To win simply share this post on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and leave a comment below with your sharing link. A random number generator will be used to select one of the comments as the winner. The closing date for this competition is midnight Saturday 14th February 2015. Winners will be notified by email.

So good luck bakers What are you waiting for? Get sharing!


Disclaimer: Thanks to Squires Kitchen for providing this prize. I have not been paid for this post but I have been given tickets to the show- yippeee! See you there!


p.s. Just in case you weren’t sure… to share your link in the comments simply copy the web address on whichever social media site you choose and paste it in the comments below. I (and only I) will be able to see your email address and will be able to contact you.


Peggy Porschen’s New Wedding cake collection

Okay, so it’s no secret that I’m a Peggy Porschen fan, but if you don’t live in the world of cakes- or within a 5 miles radius of me! Then you may not know who Peggy is. To keep this from being the longest post in the world let’s just say that she’s a cake decorator to the stars (Kate Moss, Stella Stella McCartney and Elton John to name but a few!) I mean she’s so tallented her cakes are highly recommended buy London’s foremost wedding venues including the Savoy, Claridge’s, The Ritz, The Dorchester and The Mandarin Oriental. She also has a beautiful cake boutique in Belgravia  where you can sit and eat cake or go and take one of her classes in the Peggy Porschen Academy. She’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

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photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to the Peggy Porschen Floral wedding cake collection  launch (as seen above). It was a really amazing event at The Mandarin Oriental and I have to say I was bowled over by the cakes. There were quite a few non-cakey people at the event and they couldn’t believe that the flowers on the cakes weren’t either real or silk. They were all made with sugar or modelling paste and were incredibly realistic – not to mention beautiful.

The cakes were really big. Wild at Heart provided the flowers for inspiration behind the cakes when they were initially being developed and they also decorated the tables with some beautiful blooms on the launch night.

I did take a load of shots of the cakes but they aren’t a patch on the ones taken by Georgia Glynn Smith for Peggy Porschen so here are some of her fab shots to show you just how AMAZING the cakes are!

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photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

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photo: Georgia Glynn Smith


photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

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photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

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photo: Georgia Glynn Smith

There was also a table with a selection of the cakes that appear in Peggy’s new book out next month Cakes in Bloom: Exquisite Sugarcraft Flowers for All Occasions. As you can see these shots are by me! (see what I mean about the ‘not so professional shots?)

Did I taste any cake? What do you think? I started with a slice of the salted caramel cake – on the far end of the table. Had salted caramel for main and for pudding I had salted caramel! I don’t even like caramel but I could not leave this cake alone. It was so light and the flavours are just out of this world. Peggy has layers of cake and buttercream and then a layer of chocolate ganache coating the outter edge of the cake before the sugarpaste layer. What a fantastic combination. To die for! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book for the recipes. Just so you know…. I’ll be reviewing it here next month so you can see how fab it is!

tasting tableWhen it came to chatting with Peggy I was completely blown away. I did one of her classes about 4 years ago for work and I’ve met her at a couple of press launches but not for ages. She not only remembered me but knew I had two daughters. I was seriously flattered as I think my big smile shows! Me and Peggy Porschen


So, what do you think? I think I wish I was getting married all over again so I could have one of these cakes. They’re just beautiful.




Meet the expert: Jane Curran, Editor of Feel Good Food

Jane curran FEELGOODPICJane Curran is the Editor of Feel Good Food Magazine and the Food Editor on Woman and Home. I’ve known Jane for about 10 years now. I can’t believe it’s that long but it’s true. She came to work at Woman and Home while I was on maternity leave with Beau. I was lucky enough to sit opposite her at the magazine’s offices and let me tell you as a baker sitting opposite the food editor is a GOOD thing! Apart from the fact that she would need dishes to be ‘taste tested’, she is a font of all knowledge and I used to grill her all the time! I was lucky enough to be able to interview Jane at this busy time of year.


How did you get into cooking and baking? 

Because my Mum could burn water and was an atrocious cook! Then I went to France when I was ten and fell in love with great food.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

Probably Simon Hopkinson whose accuracy, attention to detail and sheer brilliance as a (former) chef and writer makes me think I can achieve anything. He also rekindles my love of classic French food. But I also admire Yotam Ottolenghi for his fabulous flavour combinations.

What’s your favorite cook/ baking book?

There are many but I love Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries  I and II. Great cook books are as much for me about the writing as they are about the food.

How did you come to be at Woman & Home / Feel Good Food ?

I had worked for the Editorial Director years before as her food editor, so when the vacancy came up she gave me a ring! We launched FGF together 6 years ago.

How long have you worked at FGF?

We launched it as a one-off magazine for Christmas 2006 and it did so well we just kept going! Now we produce six a year.

What does your job entail?

The whole package from recipe development, design concepts, photography, content and commissioning extra features such as table inspiration or gadgets. And being my own PR and marketing machine!

What’s the best part of your job?

Working as a small team to bring out the best and most beautiful magazine we can.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Anything which involves admin!

What recipe should we be making from the latest issue of FGF?

Make the cover recipe – it’s super simple, delicious and looks great – how food should be. (EmmaMT here- this recipe is will be in the very next post! Check it out)

Have you had any big baking disasters?

I did “lose” a rich and sticky chocolate cake which slid off its base to the floor on the way to the table. And failed 3 times to make a simple Victoria sponge in the test kitchen until I finally realised that a freelancer had put plain flour in the self-raising flour container…Oh and I tried to make macaroons on a boiling hot day – the humidity just made them collapse when they came out of the oven!

Will you be cooking this Christmas?

We are 12 this year and are round at my sister’s house – she has a huge table. I am doing the starter (gravadlax with home made rye soda bread), the cheese (actually that’s Harry, my husband’s job as he is the expert) and pudding (traditional Christmas pud plus a frozen chocolate and mocha parfait with salted praline). I am leaving the turkey to her!

Where’s your favorite place to go out to eat?

This does change on a regular basis but as a treat, it’s currently Trullo in Highbury which is the most fantastic Italian restaurant. We have never had a bad meal there, the staff and service are faultless – their food is what Italian food should be; the simplest but the best ingredients put together with care and love.

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

I would have to say my Santoku knife – without a great knife I just can’t chop!

What’s your favorite dinner party meal and dessert?

Hard question for such a greedy person, but possibly spaghetti alla vongole for a starter or main and a classic lemon tart with raspberries and passion fruit cream.

What’s your guilty food pleasure? 

Heinz tomato soup with loads of grated Cheddar in it – my poorly comfort food!

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker? 

Both. I am a Nespresso addict in the morning then my addiction moves on to Twining’s Earl Grey tea after 11am.

Check out Jane’s White Chocolate cheesecake recipe in the next blog post. It’s perfect for Christmas as she says!

Feel Good Food: White chocolate cheesecake recipe

 Feel Good Food Cheesecake recipe

After interviewing Jane Curran she kindly gave me permission to share with you her delicious recipe for White chocolate cheese cake taken from the Christmas issue of Feel Good Food. A winner on any Christmas table I’m sure! Over to Jane…..

White chocolate cheesecake

Looks rich and decadent but it’s as light as a feather, and so very simple to make! Add the glam touch with white chocolate curls and gold dragees, and that ultimate Christmas sparkle – edible gold glitter! 

Preparation time: 25 minutes,plus chilling
serves 10
easy/prepare ahead


for the crust

  • 165g (5½oz) digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 65g (2½oz) butter, melted

for the filling

  • 6 leaves gelatine
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) half-fat crème fraîche
  • 100g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g (4oz) white chocolate, chopped
  • 250g (9oz) ricotta cheese
  • chocolate curls, gold dragees and edible glitter, to decorate (from cake decorating specialists)
  • you will need
  • 18cm (7in) springform cake tin,
  • lightly oiled


1 Mix together the biscuits and butter, then press into the base of the tin. Pop into the freezer while you make the filling.
Soak the gelatine in cold water until really soft – around 5 minutes. Heat the crème fraîche and sugar really gently in
a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring! Now add the softened gelatine and the vanilla and stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Leave it to cool.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in
a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whizz up the ricotta in a food processor until smooth, then add the melted chocolate and the cream mixture. Pour over the crumb base and place in the fridge to set, preferably overnight.
Carefully remove it from the tin – a hot cloth around the edge of the cake tin will help it to loosen easily – then place on
a cake stand and decorate. It will keep perfectly well decorated in the fridge
for 24 hours.
Per serving: 342 calories, 22.5g fat
(14g saturated), 29g carbohydrate


Special thanks to Jane for her time and allowing me to share one of her amazing recipes with you all.


Meet the expert: Shelina Permalloo Masterchef 2012 winner.

Shelina PermallooHow beautiful is Shelina Permalloo? I mean she can cook that’s for sure but up close and personal she is GORGEOUS!! Even in whites,slaving over a hot stove.

I was lucky enough to meet her when she was cooking up a storm (aka mouth watering canapés) at a press launch for Darren Jenner‘s bespoke kitchens at the Sub Zero & Wolf showrooms in London. Darren’s kitchens are beyond fab and he’s really down to earth.  Shelina had just won Masterchef and I had to say “hello”… as you do.

I had been shooting all day and I really wasn’t dressed to be at a launch like that. The place was filled with gorgeous ladies in very high heels, designer dresses who were sipping champagne and chatting about their £40,000 fridges. I was in my jeans having spent most of the day at a shoot on my knees arranging fake snow and a faux reindeer head! Was I put off by this? Not a jot! Having met the main man – who was so charming and down to earth I stood the other side of the island unit where Shelina was cooking up said canapés. She offered me a prawn covered in a chilli dressing. Not kosher! I had to refuse. So she said hang fire and I’ll do some more pineapple ones. Oh. My. Word! They were amazing. Sweet and hot and juicy all at the same time. I could have eaten the whole plateful- but that would have been rude! I was also hogging her attention and she was trying to concentrate. Cooking like that with all eyes on you can’t be easy!

So, I was chatting to Shelina’s agent (without actually realising it) and I said in passing to Shelina, “So you must be working on a book. When’s it out?” to which she replied “In a few months”. So it would appear fate was on my side. A few months later I arranged an interview with her and guess what? She remembered me! I was so flattered. When I say she remembered me I mean she remembered that I was the hovering vegetarian! Anyway, we chatted for ages and I’m completely her number one fan. Her book is just beautiful and her knowledge about flavours and spices is fantastic. But on to the interview…..


The Shelina Permalloo interview

How did you get into cooking and baking? 

When I was really young around 3 or 4 years old I used to sit and help my mum in the kitchen. She’d give me a big wicker platter full of rice and pulses and in those days you had to sift through it to remove the stones. That was my first introduction to cooking.

My Aunt and my mum were always cooking together and I learnt almost by default. It’s only recently during my time on MasterChef that my mum reminded me that when I was twelve I wanted to own a restaurant. She and Dad said a firm ‘NO’ as they wanted a more professional career for me and I’d completely forgoten about it.


Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

David Thompson. He’s a renowned Thai chef. A legend in the Thai cooking arena. He doesn’t compromise on flavours and keeps his food as authentic as possible. He stays true to the original traditional recipes.


What influences the flavours of Mauritian food?

Mauritius wasn’t occupied until 400 years ago and it was the colonization of the many different cultures that created such a diversely ethnic food. That’s why at any dinner table you can find a French stew with an Indian curry and a chinese stir fry all at once. It’s a real fusion of tastes. East meets west.


How did you come to be on Master chef?

My love of food led me to apply for Masterchef back in April 2011. I sat and filled out the on -line application with a friend. I clicked ‘send’ and then forgot about it. At the time I was a Project manager and wanted to change to a job within the food industry. I soon gave up my job and started looking for a position in catering. Then in August I got a call from MasterChef asking me to come in for a chat.


What do you do for fun?

Cook! In my teens I’d cook for friends and at Uni I was the ‘house cook’. Now I cook to entertain. I love parties and going to friends houses. I also love Zumba and just chilling out with a good book. I can get totally lost in a good cook book. At the moment I am loving Rick Stein’s India but I also love literary books too.


Where is your favorite place to go out for a meal?

It depend on my mood but I really love ‘Silk Road’ in Camberwell. It’s low key, got a great style and has very hot, crazy szechuan spices. It’s delicious.


What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

Microplane grater – otherwise I’d have to stand and hand chop all my ginger and garlic instead of grating it!


What’s your favorite meal?

Anything made with seafood. Octopus, prawns, lobster. One of the dishes in the book ‘Seared Lobster with lime and coriander butter’ is the one dish that springs to mind. It’s my favorite dish.


How long did the book take to write? 

From start to finish it took a year. After I won MasterChef I had a few months where I had to keep it a secret so I got about 50-60 recipes done in that time. Then once the last show aired I was able to find a publisher. I was really happy to write a book for Ebury. That’s when I completed the rest of the recipes.


How do you test the recipes in Sunshine on a Plate? What’s the process?

All the recipes are tested at home first and then I got friends and family to test them. I wanted each dish to be as easy as possible to make whilst remaining authentic and not complex. Accessibility of ingredients was also a big thing for me. I didn’t want there to be any ingredients that were going to be really difficult to find. Even Sainsburys and Waitrose sell Chickpea flour, it’s just in the gluten free section rather than the baking.


What is your favorite recipe in the book?

For savory it would have to be the lobster dish. It’s a stand out party favorite. I love to cook it for friends. For dessert it would have to be the banana lattice. It’s a great way to use up bananas that are on the turn and it has that sticky toffee kind of taste whilst remaining light.


Were there any major disasters when working on the book? 

There weren’t any disasters really. We shot the book in Mauritius with lots of scene setting shots of market places and local fish and lobster sellers. On the last day we planned to shoot the book jacket. The plan was to get a shot of me cooking on the shore with the sea in the background. It had been a beautiful day all day. Just as my hair and make up was finished it started to rain but not just any rain. Torrential rain. It was a total wipe out and we had to go with plan B. I still love the cover shot.


What’s next on your wish list

I’m planning on opening my own restaurant, which has always been my biggest wish. But while I am planning that I am doing lots of shows including the Good Food show as well as planning book two!

Sunshine on a Plate by Shelina Permalloo (Ebury Press, £20 hardback) Images © Martin Poole available on AMAZON


Check out Shelina’s recipe for Mango, Rum and Lime Syllabub in the next post. I only have permission to feature it for one month so don’t miss it!



Things are looking really Delicious over here!

Delicious Magazine

I’ve been mega busy the last few weeks shooting Halloween (I know. I know! It was Christmas last time and now it’s Halloween. I’m all over the place! No wonder my head’s spinning) and as the kids are off for the Summer I have literally been here there and everywhere. Can you believe the little ones are half way through their 6 weeks hols already? Slow down time. Plllleeeassse!!!

Anyway, I nearly forgot to tell you all about my exciting mention in Delicious Magazine. Back in May the lovely Rebecca Smith, Deputy Editor over there asked me if I had a recipe that had been handed down to me for Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) which would fit in with their September issue. Each issue has a feature where there is a really lovely personal story of a favorite recipe being handed down from generation to generation or from special friends. It’s really sweet.  Well, my first thought was to give her my Honey Cake recipe but as they had featured that cake last year I sent her my Challah recipe instead which I got from my brother Robert. It’s not one of those long time family traditions – rather just a nice to share story. It really takes me back to when he was in London (not Australia) and his first daughter was born. He tried so many recipes to get it right and would send everyone photos of what he had made each Friday night. You’ll have to pick up the current copy to read it in full and get the recipe- or I may just share it with you in a few weeks in time for Rosh Hashannah, but really  I just wanted to share my excitement at having mentioned in such a prestigious foodie mag. And just look how amazing Bex’s shot of it is in the mag!!! It makes my mouth water. Beautiful.

Delicious Magazine

 I do love a handed down recipe. Don’t you? What recipe have you been handed down that you go back to time and time again?  I’d love to know.


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