Black Bottom Cupcakes

These Humming Bird Bakery cupcakes are tasty and look great (as long as you’re down with rustic looking cakes), even better they don’t contain any butter or chocolate*, making them a super frugal alternative to traditional chocolate cakes.

Black Bottom Cupcakes


Chocolate Sponge

190g plain flour
120g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
40ml sunflower oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cheesecake Filling

140g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
*Humming Bird calls for chocolate chips in the cheesecake filling, but I actually prefer mine without

Chocolate sponge:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170℃/325℉/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases

2. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and mix with an electric whisk on slow speed until all of the dry ingredients are combined (my £10 Tesco electric mixer is not sophisticated enough for this, so I combined using a wooden spoon)

3. Mix together the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and 125ml water in a jug and set aside

4. Gradually pour the contents of the jug into the bowl, gradually increasing the speed of the electric whisk until the mixture is thick and all of the ingredients are incorporated

5. Spoon into paper cases until 2/3 full and set aside

Cheesecake filling:

1. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract with an electric whisk on medium speed until smooth and fluffy; be careful not to over mix or the mixture will split

2. Spoon over the chocolate sponge in the muffin cases

3. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for around 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch (but don’t leave them too long or the cheesecake will begin to crumble)

Humming Bird Cupcakes


PS Humming Bird Bakery suggests topping with cream cheese frosting, but I personally like them without, they’re not the sweetest but that makes them just a little bit more virtuous, right?

A Box of Birthday Brownies

Birthday cakes don’t always need to be pretty round sponge cakes. Why not make a box of Birthday brownies?

Brownies can be really pricey as they use a lot of expensive ingredients. This recipe (based on this BBC Good Food recipe) uses Tesco Value chocolate (at just 30p for 100g) as a cheaper alternative to cooking chocolate, as well as Tesco Value better and flour. Although still not the thriftiest cakes to make, they make a lovely gift and will definitely be appreciated by the lucky recipient!


185g unsalted butter, in small cubes

185g dark chocolate

85g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

100g milk chocolate

3 large eggs

275g golden caster sugar


1. Gently melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a non-stick saucepan. Once melted, set aside to cool

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180℃/350℉/Gas Mark 4 and line the base of a 20cm square tin

3. Chop the milk chocolate into small chunks

4. Break the eggs into a large bowl, then add the caster sugar and whisk using a handheld mixer on max speed, until thick and creamy and double the original volume. Be patient as this can take upwards of 5 minutes

5. Gently fold the cooled chocolate and butter mix into the bowl with the eggs and sugar, using a rubber spatula

6. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold in very carefully, making sure you don’t knock the air out

7. Stir in the chopped milk chocolate

8. Gently pour the brownie batter into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes, or until the cake no longer wobbles in the centre

9. Leave to cool completely, before cutting into squares

10. Pack in a pretty box with candles and give to the lucky Birthday boy or girl!

Nutella & Vanilla Yoghurt Marble Cake

I’m experimenting with using butter less in my baking and when I had half a tub of vanilla yoghurt left in the fridge that was close to its expiry date the other day, I decided to try and use it as a substitute. What a revelation!


I used this recipe and have converted it into UK measurements below so you can try it at home. NB the cake I made didn’t have quite enough Nutella to get the contrast, so I have upped the quantity in the ingredients below. It’s still a small enough amount that this is a great recipe for finishing off the end of a jar!


120g unsalted butter

180g plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

3 eggs

180g sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g vanilla yoghurt

75g Nutella

Vanilla Nutella Marble Cake

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180℃/160℃ fan/Gas Mark 4 and grease or line a 20cm springform cake tin (I used a slightly larger one here, hence the flat cake!)

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool

3. In a large bowl, sift and mix the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside

4. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until the mixture thickens and becomes light in colour (approx 3 minutes)

5. Beat in the flour mixture, yoghurt and melted butter, mixing until just smooth

6. Pour in two thirds of the completed batter into the cake tin

7. Add the Nutella (you may need to pop in the microwave beforehand for a few seconds if it’s hard) to the remaining batter and beat until smooth

8. Pour the Nutella batter into the cake tin with the plain batter and swirl in using a rubber spatula to create a marbling effect

9. Bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden and the sides are beginning to come away from the tin

10. Cool on a wire rack


(Crystallised) Syrup & Chocolate Tiffin

So, what to do when your golden syrup goes all hard and crystallised? You could melt it in a pan of hot water, or you could use it as a great excuse to use that last bit in the jar to make chocolate tiffin (otherwise known as chocolate biscuit cake or everything-tasty-you-can-name-in-a-cake-you-don’t-even-have-to-bake).

Crystallised syrup tiffin


110g butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
4 tsp cocoa
225g biscuits
1 handful raisins
100g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate

Chocolate tiffin

1. Place the biscuits in an airtight bag and bash into crumbs using a rolling pin

2. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa gently in a non-stick saucepan until melted

3. Add the biscuits and raisins once melted, stir to combine

4. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin and press down with the back of a spoon

5. Melt the chocolate over the pan of simmering water and pour the melted chocolate into the loaf tin

6. Pop the tin in the fridge for around 1 hour to set, then cut into 12 pieces



Mmm, syrupy, chocolately goodness!

Thrifty (Cheat’s) Home Made Bread

Love the smell of freshly baked bread? Want to make bread but without the faff and expense of bread makers, 00 flour and active yeast? Well you have come to the right place.

Buy a pack of bread mix from Tesco (75p), Asda (80p) or Sainsburys (80p) and all you have to do is add water, knead, rest and then bake. So it’s cheaper than a normal loaf of bread and you can eat it whilst it’s still warm…

Wholemeal Bread Mix

PS Please note that Nutella leftover from Pancake Day is a perfectly acceptable adult topping for the above – do not let anyone tell you otherwise!



(10p) Banananana Muffins

Ok, so this time the bananas were 10p (not 6p), but they were still ripe and ready for baking. This time, muffins!

Banana Muffins


I used this recipe which both fulfils the thrifty criteria but also the not-horrendously-bad-for-you-cake criteria. They are beautifully bananananana-y with just the right amount of sweet and crunchy and unlike when I’ve made muffins before they actually rose convincingly. Result!

So next time you spy reduced bananas in the supermarket, you know what to do…

10p Banana Muffins


Nom nom nom.

(Stale) Bread & Butter Pudding

This week there were a lot of comings and goings here at Thriftea Central and the whole routine went to pot. As such, I ended the week with stale bread that hadn’t made it into either sandwiches or the freezer. What better to do at this point than make a delicious bread and butter pudding?

Bread and Butter Pudding (approx 8 servings)
8 slices bread
Approx 25g butter (sufficient to spread 8 slices of bread)
50g sultanas
2 tsp cinnamon
350ml semi-skimmed milk
50ml double cream
2 eggs
25g granulated sugar
1. Cut the crusts off of the bread:

2. Butter one side of the bread and cut into triangles

3. Place a layer of bread triangles across the bottom of an oven-proof dish and scatter with raisins, continue to build in layers until all the bread has been used

4. Gently heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, without allowing to boil

Bread and Butter Pudding

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with 15g of the sugar


6. Add the milk/cream mix in with the eggs and stir to combine into a thick custard, then pour over the bread and leave to sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180℃/360℉/Gas Mark 4

Bread Butter Pud

7. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown

Bread and butter slice

Enjoy warm with cream and the smug satisfaction that your bread did not go to waste!

Shrove Tuesday: American Pancakes

Tuesday 4th March is surely the best Tuesday of 2014 as it’s Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day.

I usually opt for this thriftea pancake recipe, but this year if you fancy something a little different, why not try some American-style pancakes? This recipe is a Nigella recipe that’s really quick and easy to make and produces delicious, fluffy pancakes that are crying out to be drizzled with syrup or honey.

American Pancake Stack

American-style Pancakes
Makes 12-16

225g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
300 ml milk (use powdered milk for extra thriftiness)
30g butter
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

1. Melt the butter, set aside to cool

2. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl

3. Make a well in the centre and pour the milk, eggs and butter in

4. Beat the liquid into the flour mix

5. Set a non-stick pan over a high heat, pour the batter in and flip once the top begins to bubble

6. Stack, drizzle and serve!

American Style Pancakes

PS Did you know that in Iceland, Shrove Tuesday is known as ‘Sprengidagur’ (Bursting Day) and instead of pancakes, the Icelandic people eat salted meat and peas?

(6p) Banana Bread

I snapped up 7 bananas for 6p at the supermarket the other day. Slightly past their best, they were just perfect for making banana loaf. I made a couple of loaves by doubling the recipe below. The first was plain and the second had 100g of dark chocolate chips thrown in for good measure and stashed the latter in the freezer for a rainy day.

Loaf cakes like these freeze really well – I just left mine in the greaseproof paper and popped it into a freezer bag with the date on. Bananas are often reduced in the supermarket as they go from ripe to overripe so quickly, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to get in on the banana bread action!

This is adapted from a Mary Berry recipe and is the quickest and easiest recipe for banana bread that I know. It makes a loaf that’s pretty even in texture, but if you wanted chunks of banana, I’d suggest stirring with a wooden spoon rather than using an electric mixer.

100g softened butter
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk

1. Pre-heat the oven 180℃/360℉/Gas Mark 4 and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper
2. Mix all of the ingredients with an electric mixer
3. Spoon into the loaf tin and flatten the top with a spoon
4. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for around 1 hour, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
5. Leave to cool in the cake tin for a short while and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully

Enjoy warm with cream or ice cream or with a cup of afternoon tea.

Gluten Free vs Regular Sponge Cake

This weekend we had lots of Birthday celebrations to enjoy, which gave me a chance to do a side-by-side comparison of a gluten-free sponge and a regular sponge.
For the regular sponge I used this recipe (but with 2 layers) and for the gluten-free cake, I opted for this recipe from Dove Farm. The two aren’t really a direct comparison as the ‘regular’ cake uses 4 eggs and the gluten-free just 2, but I’m not yet confident enough to play around with quantities.
Gluten Free
Unsurprisingly then, the gluten-free didn’t rise as much as the regular sponge and the top was fairly prone to cracking, but both were quite light and tasted pretty similar (particularly after the addition of a generous helping of jam and whipped cream!)

I’m pleased to say both cakes were enjoyed by their recipients and I will be looking up some more gluten-free recipes to make with the remaining flour I now have waiting in the cupboard!