Happy Birthday Tooli Boo!


My youngest, formerly known as the 9yo, turns 10 today, so this one’s just for him (although the cake recipe’s all yours).

There are myriad things I love about you, little man, too many to fit here, so here are just a few:

Your dazzling green-blue eyes and killer smile.

Your view of the world: sometimes bizarre, often kooky, always positive.

Your motley crew of alter egos:

  • Baby Dave: the panda
  • Wuffy Doman: lead singer of the eponymous band and writer of the lyrical masterpiece, Beautiful River (As French As My Finger)
  • Tooli Boo: master monster creator
  • Kevin: fierce sergeant major
  • The Mutton: supewior (sic) being, faithful brother of The Button
  • Christian Sniff: pug detective


That you still walk on tiptoes.

That as long as it’s orange, it’s all good.

The way you say ‘brilliont’.

That you still find the box more interesting than whatever’s been delivered in it.

That you can’t eat a tortilla without first fashioning a mask out of it.image

That you repeat our opinions and pass them off as your own (although that thing Dad said about killing Brexiters with the umbrella of justice, best ignore that one).

That you won’t let me put your now threadbare blanky near the washing machine, let alone the bin.

That you still reach for my hand when we cross the road.

That you hug your big brother tight every morning.

That you crawl into my bed to sleep whenever your Dad’s away.

That you are grown up enough to appreciate esoteric indie rock while sitting in a field, but that you still often sleep with your bottom in the air.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I love the way you are growing up, but also that it isn’t happening too quickly.

So Happy Birthday gorgeous one, from me, your family and all your friends…IMG_2949

…we love you more than the world and Moontopia combined.

The perfect chocolate birthday cake


I got this recipe from a cake baking course I attended a few years ago at a local cookery school. Sadly, the school is no more, but the recipe lives on. This is a dense, rich, brownie-like cake that keeps well for three to four days in an airtight container. If you keep it in the fridge it becomes fudgier in texture, while it is crumblier at room temperature.

Makes 1 two-tiered 20cm cake

  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder or instant coffee dissolved in 125ml cold water
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 200g light brown soft sugar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 75ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1/2 level tsp salt

For the ganache:

  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 200g double cream
  • pinch salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 150°C (fan). Butter and line the bases of two 20cm cake tins.
  2. Melt the butter, coffee and chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugars, salt and cocoa and whisk out any lumps.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture and the egg mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to combine (do not whisk, beat or overmix).
  6. Pour the mixture between the two prepared tins and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean). Don’t worry if the cake cracks a bit on top – that’s what the ganache is for.
  7. To make the ganache, gently heat together the chocolate and double cream with a pinch of salt and leave to cool and thicken. Don’t worry if it looks like it has separated – a good stir when it has completely cooled should remedy this.
  8. Leave the cakes to cool for 20 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. When cool, sandwich together the two layers with ganache, whipped cream and your choice of berries (raspberries and cherries work well). Spatch the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake, smoothing it all over with a palette knife. Grate over more chocolate to decorate.

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