Happy 18th birthday to my 15 year old step-kid – Victoria Sandwich and Maple Pecan Chocolate Brownies


The younger of husband's boys turned 15 this week, or 18 according to his Facebook account. I wonder when is it you start lying about your age the other way round, late twenties, early thirties? I remember when I was nine I thought the year lasted forever and I’d never be ten. I couldn’t wait to be in the double digits. Now most of the time I can barely remember how old I am but have no rush to reach the triple digits.

Classic Victoria sandwich cake with fresh raspberries, blueberries and cream

To celebrate the kid’s birthday we went out to eat, not because my food is not good, let me make that clear. But because it’s nice to go out sometimes and kids particularly enjoy it. They live in a small town, so when they come and stay with us in the big smoke it is fun for them to eat out sometimes. One of their favourites is a Chinese buffet, which I’m really not crazy about, it’s all deep fried fat. So luckily tonight the birthday boy wanted to go to our local Turkish restaurant where we shared a massive mixed grill. 

Turkish mixed grill

We then came home for cakes. I had made a traditional Victoria sandwich which I filled with cream and fresh blueberries and raspberries. I also made a tray of brownies using the Canadian maple syrup I got from my Canadian colleague. She’s a funny lady, we call her Chip for some reason. One day Chip came to work and announced that she was mortified. She had travelled all across London in morning rush hour to be told on her last leg of the journey that she had her floaty dress stuck in her knickers. They weren’t even her nice knickers apparently which made it all the more embarrassing. I bet she cheered many a bloke's morning travelling up the underground escalators.

Tray of chocolate and Canadian maple syrup brownies

Well girls, we’ve all been there. My embarrassing skirt in the knickers incident was in school, I must have been 7 or 8. I still remember the skirt exactly, it was chocolate brown corduroy with orange lions on it, it was quite short and slightly flared and I loved it. I can’t remember the knickers or how long I walked around like that, but I think since then I loved the skirt a little less.

My Victoria sponge was according to this recipe – I didn’t change a thing and they turned out really nice. I found it odd though that in the instructions they just asked to mix everything at the same time. I mixed the sugar and butter first and blended until light and fluffy, then added the eggs one at a time and then added the dry ingredients and milk. And I did use this magical super flour that promised the spongiest sponge – it was some kind of extra fine and sifted variety.

For the maple brownies I followed this recipe. It was delicious, but very crumbly, maybe the super fine flour was too fine for this, or maybe it's supposed to be like that. The only change I did was to substitute walnuts with pecans and add a bit of instant coffee in the chocolate and butter mix. According to Nigella the coffee brings out the chocolateyness in chocolate. And if anyone knows their chocolate it has to be Nigella. I really like Nigella, I wish I was her friend and that she’d invite me to her boozy soirees in her garden where everyone is laughing and clinking their glasses together under the fairy lights.

Table with birthday cakes, Victoria sandwich and sunflowers

Recipe: Classic Victoria Sandwich (from BBC Good Food)

200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.

Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

I filled mine with cream and fresh berries and dusted with a little icing sugar before serving.

Chocolate and  Maple Syrup Brownie

Recipe: Chocolate and Maple Syrup Brownies (from MSN food)

275 g (9 oz) plain dark chocolate
250 g (8 oz) butter
3 eggs
175 g (6 oz) caster sugar
50 ml (2 fl oz) maple syrup
100 g (3½ oz) self-raising flour
pinch salt
100 g (3½ oz) walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
125 g (4 oz) white chocolate, chopped
icing sugar, for dusting

Melt the plain dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water .

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and maple syrup until pale and light, then stir in the melted chocolate mixture, flour, salt and walnuts, if used.

Grease and line a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 inch) baking tin, allowing the paper to overhang the edges of the tin. Spoon the mixture into the tin and scatter the white chocolate over the surface.

Bake in a preheated oven, 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5, for 35–40 minutes until the top sets but the cake mix still feels soft underneath. Cover the tin loosely with foil if the surface begins to brown too much. Leave to cool in the tin. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.

Choc & Maple Syrup Brownie

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    Highly recommended!

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