Saturday, 17 December 2011

Lucky dips

For a lovely festive get together with friends today, I made some dips as my contribution. They were based on the following BBC Good Food recipes:

Butter bean, lemon & herb pate

Tangy roast pepper & walnut dip

Cream cheese & sweet chilli dip

Of course, I can't leave anything alone, so my tweaked recipes are:

Butterbean dip
2 400g cans butterbeans, drained
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Handful of torn coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 good tsp ground cumin
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Whizz everything in a food processor to the desired consistency. If you need more liquid, add water or runny yogurt. Next time I think I will add some toasted and well-ground cumin seeds.

Hard to say how many it serves as it depends on the situation, but this makes a takeaway container full.

Roast pepper dip

2 jars roast red peppers (not hot!)
150g walnuts
1 clove garlic, crushed
A good squeeze of tomato puree (2 tbsp?)
1 tbsp cider vinegar (or any decent vinegar)
5-6 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp 'normal' paprika
small pinch of hot smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil gently with the spices and garlic. Meanwhile, whizz the other ingredients together in a food processor, and pour in the warm oil and spices. Adjust consistency and seasoning to taste.

This makes half to two-thirds of a takeaway container.

Cream cheese & sweet chilli
1 regular pack cream cheese
1 regular pot greek yogurt, e.g. Total
Handful of coriander, torn
Salt to taste
Sweet chilli sauce

Whizz the yogurt, cream cheese, coriander and salt together (I used a stick blender this time). Pour it into a serving dish, and layer the sweet chilli sauce on top (adjust amount to taste). Dip your dipping things through it to get some of each layer.

All the dips are vegetarian, and the first two are vegan.

Dipping things
To dip, I just put together lots of lovely fresh veg, and some home made pitta chips: split pittas, cut into rough triangles, brushed with oil, seasoned, and baked at 180°C for 8-10 mins until crisp.

It turned out to be easiest to cut the pittas with scissors - first crosswise into two pockets, then each pocket flatwise (if that's even a word) into separate sides, and then each side into triangles. My idea of microwaving them to puff them up and separate the two sides didn't work, they just got soggy and harder to cut.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Pork in orange sauce

This is an old family favourite dish that somehow I haven't got written down anywhere, but decided to make tonight nonetheless. Thankfully mum was in when I phoned for help :)

The recipe came from my late godmother, Cynthia, and reminds me of having dinner while staying with her in Formby, near Liverpool, during school holidays. It's fantastic comfort food.

Cynthia's pork with orange

Four good quality pork chops or loin steaks
Plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and mixed spice (I added cumin too)
Juice and finely chopped zest of 2 large oranges
1-2 tbsp brown sugar (or to taste)
1tbsp oil for frying

Coat the pork well in the seasoned and spiced flour, and fry in the oil until beginning to brown. Add the orange zest and juice (I used the pulp as well) and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the sugar and simmer for 20-30 minutes more until the pork is tender and the sauce is reduced. You can also put it in the oven at about 150-160°C for about the same time. It's not a precision dish!
Serve with mashed potatoes and peas.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Simple suppers round-up

Having acquired 101 Simple Suppers (BBC Good Food) for 50p at a book sale, this week I went mad and tried four recipes.

Pork with paprika - basically pork fillet, onions, stock, paprika, half fat creme fraiche. I added mushrooms (lots of mushrooms) and served with roast squash and courgette. I also discovered that you can't freeze half fat creme fraiche because it splits :(  It was really very tasty but quite watery and of course the split CF detracted a bit. The mushrooms were a great addition though. I used lots of normal paprika and just a smidge of the hot smoked stuff. Would be good with mash I think - will definitely do again and keep refining.

Greek lamb with potatoes - lamb leg, potatoes, onion, garlic, stock - the only thing making this Greek was some oregano - and not even a lot of it. It was OK but not stunning, a bit boring frankly. I served it with roast courgette and cherry tomatoes. Probably wouldn't do it again.

Honey and soy salmon - this was very good - the salmon was just cooked, the sauce was a tasty mix of sweet and savoury with the pop of mustard seeds, and the stir fried veg (mange tout and shredded cabbage) were still crisp. A good non-stick pan made washing up painless too. Will make again.
Mix together 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard, 2 tsp clear honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce. Fry skinless, boneless salmon fillets for 5 minutes, turning once, and pour over the mixture. Bring to the boil and add 100 ml vegetable stock. Bubble for a few minutes. Serve with rice and stir fried vegetables.

Chick peas with bacon and cabbage - I can see this becoming a one pot staple. Below is my slightly amended recipe (pre-cooking the squash and cooking the onion in the bacon fat). It said to serve with cous cous, but we just had it as a one pot meal. Crisping the bacon is essential!
Peel, de-seed and chop a butternut squash. Microwave on high with a splash of water for 7-9 minutes to start cooking. Meanwhile, fry a couple of rashers of streaky bacon until crisp, and cut into pieces. Remove from the pan and cook a chopped large onion in the remaining fat. Add the squash and a cube's worth of stock,and simmer for 15 mins. Stir in 2 tbsb wholegrain mustard, 2 tins of chick peas (or 1 CP and one of another pulse, forvariety), the chopped bacon, and a good handful or two of shredded green cabbage. Cook for a further 5 minutes and season with lots of black pepper.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Chocolate ginger marble cake

This was a basic 8oz/225g sponge mix: 4 large eggs, 225g each of butter, light brown sugar and SR flour; begin by creaming the butter and sugar really well, then add the eggs (beating after each) and finally the flour.

Divide the mixture in two, and add:
  • 1-2 tsp ground ginger, and a handful of crystallised ginger, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp good cocoa (Green & Black's for me) and a handful of dark chocolate chips
Dollop into a tin (I used my 9" square silicone pan), swirl together and level off, indenting the middle a bit. Bake for 55 mins at 170°C (fan oven) or until done according to the skewer test.

Photos and taste verdict to follow!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Grilled pineapple and butterscotch sauce

 More BBQ goodness.

1 fresh pineapple, peeled/cored/chunked, marinated overnight in the juice and zest of 2 limes, 1-2tbsp caster sugar (to taste), and a handful of chopped fresh mint.

Thread the chunks on skewers and grill, or just eat from the bowl. Delicious with butterscotch sauce - I used a recipe from which translates as:

225 g / 8 oz light muscovado sugar (lump free) (original said dark brown sugar, but I think this made it too treacly, whereas light brown will not overwhelm)
112 g / 4 oz unsalted butter
175 ml / 6 fl.oz double cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
sea salt to taste (original = kosher salt)

In a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar and stir well - it will look like wet sand. Let the sugar melt and the "sand" mixture become more liquid, stirring to make sure no sugar gets left behind. Once it's liquid (it will still be slightly granular), pour in the cream and whisk well. Keep whisking occasionally as the mixture bubbles away for about 10 minutes. Pour into a heatproof but cool container and leave to come to room temperature, then stir in the vanilla and salt.
Goes well on the pineapple, but also other fruit, ice cream, biscuits, fingers, etc...

And she'll have fun fun fun 'til somebody takes her sprinkles awayyyyy

I fancied trying funfetti cake. It's a USAnian invention, plain white cake with fun bursts of colour courtesy of sprinkles in the mix (you know, sprinkles, like these)

Sprinkles aka "Jimmies"

It was featured on The Kitchn food blog this week, with a from-scratch recipe rather than the usual boxed mix version. Having been asked to bring something sweet to a birthday barbecue, I thought this would be the biz, especially as cupcakes. And I knew I had some hundreds and thousands in the cupboard to be used up.

I thought I'd make the effort and follow the linked recipe for white cake. It was quite an effort... the flour + butter + sugar + milk mixing stage could only be described as claggy. I am sure I will be finding randomly flung blobs of cake mix for weeks to come, but most of it seemed to coagulate around the stems of my mixer's beaters. Weird. I think next time I may just make a normal sponge cake! However, kudos to the author for giving grams as well as cup measurements.

So I made the cake mix, gently gently folded in my hundreds and thousands, blobbed it into a dozen silicone cupcake moulds (and then another dozen paper moulds - there's loads), and baked. After baking, it was time to try one (in the name of science of course) so I eased it in half and... no sprinkles. No Sprinkles!

Having gone ahead and shared them anyway, I can say that in some of the larger cakes, there were vague smears of yellow and pink. But on the whole - No Sprinkles. I can only assume that my use of hundreds and thousands, which were tiny sugar balls with natural colouring, was insufficient. The colours just diluted and dissolved in the cake mix. Re-reading the recipe, I see it says "The best sprinkles for baking into a cake are the longer "jimmies" — multi-colored and waxy". Darnit. Bring on the artificial colours!

Just as well I iced them and sprinkled more H&T on the top, eh? No sprinkles. Pah.

Photo: Crazy Cool Colorful Candy Confetti Creative Commons by Pink Sherbet Photography, on Flickr

Friday, 22 April 2011

And all because... (lemon and poppy seed cake)

... I only had medium-sized eggs.

This was one of those recipes inspired by one random bit of potential food waste that I wanted to avoid. Approximately 63% of a lemon lingered in the fridge after yesterday's oven-baked cod fillets with lemon (duh) and parsley, and a bit of ferreting around in the cupboard unearthed a packet of poppy seeds, albeit with a palaeolithic Best Before date. Ha - we scoff at such trivialities. Lemon and poppy seed cake was on the cards.

I even delved into a new cook book. Life on the edge, I tell you. Just like mother used to make features the following recipe:

125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
25g poppy seeds
zest of 1 lemon
pinch salt

2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk
dash vanilla essence

125g butter, melted

Combine the first five ingredients. Combine the last 3 ingredients. Add half of mix 2 to mix 1, plus half the butter. Mix well. Add the second half of mix 2 and the butter, and mix well again. Pour into a 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for an hour.
I found I only had medium eggs in the cupboard. I've been caught like this before so I used 2 whole eggs plus another yolk. I also decided to make a loaf cake, since lemon and poppy seed cake just should be a loaf in my book. Everything else went swimmingly. I decided to make a syrup from the otherwise-unneeded lemon juice and some more sugar, to top the cake off and make it into a lemon drizzle kind of thing.

Then I got carried away. I whisked up the leftover egg white, determined to make meringue. For some reason I chose to do this by hand. By the time I had got it to soft peak stage, the unwatched lemon syrup was lemon caramel. Rats. At this point, a quick check of the cake revealed it was a) volcanically uneven and b) somewhat toasty (ahem) at one end. And there were still 12 minutes left on the timer. An hour my arse. I dribbled the caramel on it anyway.

So, a nearly-but-not-quite burnt lemon and poppy seed loaf, with nearly-but-not-quite-burnt lemon caramel topping. Which sticks to your teeth. And is quite eye-wateringly lemony ("makes your tabs sing", I can hear mum saying) (tabs being ears, for the latitudinally challenged). It's edible, but domestic goddessicity is not at home today.

The meringues are still in the oven, but they'll have to go some to redeem the cake. [Edit: they were pretty good, but were fully crisp after 1h40 @ 125°C; glad I didn't do them at 140°C for 2h like the book gave in another recipe, and actually I would have preferred them a bit gooey in the middle...]

Note: making the mixture with melted butter made it relatively runny for cake batter. It pooled in the tin and levelled itself, when I think I could have done with making a hollow in the middle to even out the rise. Sorry, Tom Norrington-Davies, I don't know how your mother used to make cakes, but I'm not convinced this way is for me. I'm going back to Hannah Miles next time!

Note 2: while initially writing this post I constantly mistyped poppy as poopy. Says it all.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Something that's not cake - kale, pumpkin and bacon one-pot

A BBC Good Food recipe. Basically, cook bacon and shallots, add squash or pumpkin in smallish cubes,  chopped kale and stock. Simmer and serve when the squash is tender.

The recipe says streaky bacon but I would use back bacon next time - the streaky was too fatty and didn't crisp up (I was too impatient and/or it was supermarket bacon with added water). I did my usual trick of microwaving the squash for 7-8 minutes to start it off but I needn't have as the kale took longer than I thought. I also used home made chicken stock from earlier in the week and that was pretty good - ham stock would be good too I reckon. We didn't bother with the toast. I had a smear of Kozlik's maple mustard with mine and that added a nice little wow factor - could be good in the pot next time.We also agreed we could try small crispy bits of chorizo instead of bacon next time. Definite possibilities!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Rose peshwari cake / cupcakes

I read this and thought it was a fab idea! Yes, another one from my baking bible. I'm going to shorthand the recipe, partly for speed and partly because I'm not sure about reproducing in full quite so many recipes from the same book here! I did modify this one by adding the rose element, which I thought would go well with the theme.

Small cakes: (see below for large cake)
Make a basic 6oz/175g sponge mix: 3 eggs, 175g each of butter, sugar and SR flour; begin by creaming the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and finally the flour. I also added a good pinch of ground cardamom and 2tbsp coconut cream.

In the blender I whizzed up 50-60g each of pistachios, desiccated coconut and sultanas, and stirred this into the cake mix. This makes 20-24 little cakes (i.e. cake cases not muffin cases) which bake in 15-20 minutes at 180°C.

When cooled, I topped some of them with basic fondant icing (fondant icing sugar & cold water measured by eye and mixed to a stiff but still dribble-able consistency), flavoured with a couple of drops of rosewater and coloured with literally a drop of red colouring (a skewer dipped in the bottle and dotted into the icing). Then I sprinkled some crystallised rose petals on top.

One tin of these disappeared at this afternoon's fundraising tea and cake, and the other one (the original recipe was for an 8oz sponge mix - there were plenty!) will go for the same purpose at work tomorrow. I tried one (or two... *cough*) and they were yummy - just the right size, a nice nuttiness and the fragrant topping worked quite well with just a blob of icing. I'm not sure whether the cardamom adds anything, and if so, whether to dump it or increase it. Might be too much to have another flavour.

Edit (July '11): Making these again, I added 3 pods' worth of cardamom seeds, freshly crushed with a pestle and mortar. This time the flavour really came through and was well worth having (but this time there was no rose icing, so I'm still not sure about including both).

Edit 2: the recipe for pistachio cardamom whoopie pies here includes rosewater buttercream. Got to be worth a try next time!

Edit 3 (Dec '14): no buttercream, but freshly ground cardamom and rose water icing work fine together. I was a bit over-liberal with the red food colouring this time, so the icing this time was more of a shocking pink - but that was a great contrast to a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. And it earned the great nickname of Bollywood Cakes.

Edit 4 (March '17): I made an 8oz/4-egg sponge version that was baked in two 20cm tins. I topped and filled with rosewater buttercream - made with the leftover coconut cream as well as butter, it was a slightly lighter texture, and worked well with the rose. Some good raspberry jam in the middle cut through the sweetness a bit, and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios and desiccated coconut gave a clue about the contents.

The 'berg is back

I made my old favourite Coffee Battenberg for a friend's tea and cake afternoon today. I say old favourite, but I haven't actually blogged it before even though I've made it at least three times and had various rave reviews!

[2016 update: I've added a method variation for a non-coffee version, at the bottom.]

It's a basic 6oz sponge mix, half left plain and half mixed with cocoa and coffee, baked in two loaf tins and then trimmed and cut into bars. Sandwich with coffee buttercream and wrap in marzipan... job done.

Of course, the reality is a bit trickier, but it's still not too hard to make.

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tbsp cocoa powder
Half of: 1 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water and cooled
1 tbsp milk 


100g butter
200g icing sugar, well sifted
Other half of the coffee mixture
400g white marzipan

Oven to 180°C / 160°C fan, grease and line 2 loaf tins (note - the more crisply you can line the tins, especially at the corners, the less cake edge you will have to trim!). You could use silicone pans, which don't need lining but tend to have softer corners. Or, take the Great British Bake Off/Mary Berry tactic of making a greaseproof divider in a square tin, but make sure it's at exactly halfway. A divided square tin will need more cooking time.
Cream butter and caster sugar until fluffy. Add eggs gradually and beat well after each addition.  Sift in flour and baking powder and beat well. Divide the mixture in half as accurately as you can (this is important - weigh if you have to), and add the cocoa and the (half) coffee mixture to one half, mixing well before spooning it into the tin. The plain mix has the tbsp of milk beaten in (to keep the texture the same as the coffee one) and goes in the other tin. When levelling the mixture, leave a generous dent in the centre to allow for more rising there. Bake for 30-35 minutes (45+ for a square tin) until springy in the middle / a skewer comes out clean; test both cakes! Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then on a rack.

Beat the butter, icing sugar and coffee mixture until smooth, and set aside. Roll the marzipan out to pound coin thickness, at least as wide as your loaf tins are long and four times as long as your loaf tins are wide (at the bottom) - leave a safety margin for trimming. A silicon pastry mat is really helpful here. Use icing sugar to prevent it sticking, and keep flipping and turning it as you roll. Crucially, make sure it is not stuck to your surface before you start constructing!

When the cakes are cool, trim them as sparingly as you can, i.e. remove only what you need to make two evenly sized blocks with neat right-angle corners. Leave the ends until later, to trim them and the marzipan at the same time and get a neat finish. I do all of this trimming with a bread knife. Crucially, the cakes need to be the same height and width otherwise you'll have a wonky finished product. I have found that stacking 3 CD cases (you remember those...) each side of the cake gives me a way to trim the top nice and level without wasting too much, and then I stack the cakes on top of each other to trim the sides vertically and ensure they are the same. Finally, cut the two blocks in half lengthways to make two sticks of each flavour. I have to confess that I get a ruler out at this point! 
To construct, take a bricklaying approach. A palette knife and a jug of hot water for warming it will make life easier. Spread buttercream on one side of one sponge and put it buttercream-down on the marzipan near one end (leaving a margin for final wrapping). Then spread more on the inner side of that sponge. Buttercream another (opposite colour!) sponge and place it icing-down next to the first, against the spread side. Spread the top of both these sponges together, add another sponge on top, spread its inner side, and add the final sponge to make the square. Now cover the three outer sides of the block with buttercream too and you're ready for marzipan.

Bring the marzipan over the cake, being careful not to tear it, and making sure the corners are not baggy. If you have a fondant icing smoother tool, it can help get everything flat. Leave the ends rough for now. Allow a centimetre or two for the overlap along one side, feather the edge that will lie on top (press it down to make it thinner), and moisten it with water to make it stick. Roll the cake over to put this on the bottom. Now trim the marzipan edges and the cake ends at the same time to get a clean, flat face, and pinch along the corners of the cake slightly to sharpen them. The trimming can be easier to do if you chill the cake first, to firm up the buttercream and marzipan.
Overall, this is not your delicate afternoon tea Battenberg in this particular incarnation. It's pretty hefty! But it seems to hit the spot and it all disappeared at the tea and cake session... and every other time I have made it since.

Non-coffee variation:
Make the plain mixture as above. Rather than the coffee and cocoa, add a little red colouring and (optionally) rosewater to one half, and (optionally) almond essence to the other. Gel colour will give a nice shade without making the cake mix too sloppy. Sandwich with jam (sparingly) instead of buttercream - plum or seedless raspberry work well, apricot would also be fine. Wrap with yellow marzipan.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Marmalade & not-whisky cake

Yet another one from the Big Book of Cakes and Cookies - I knew I had basic cake ingredients (mainly a couple of eggs that needed using) and it was to hand, so I browsed for inspiration and came up with Marmalade and Whisky Cake.

  • 100g sultanas soaked overnight in 3tbsp whisky
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g soft dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 3tbsp thin-shred marmalade
  • For the topping:
  • 15g butter
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2tbsp demerara sugar
  • 4tbsp plain flour, sifted
Oven: 180°C. Tin: deep 23cm springform, greased and lined.


For the cake, cream the butter and sugars together well. Beat the eggs in gradually. Fold in the flour, marmalade and sultanas, and spoon into the tin.

If making the topping, combine just like crumble topping and sprinkle over the cake. Bake for 35-40 minutes until springy and/or a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then on a rack.

First of all, with only 2 eggs, I made half the mixture. This made a decent sized loaf cake so I'm glad I didn't do the full amount! I did use the full amount of sultanas, but I soaked them in Cointreau rather than whisky which I don't really like and therefore don't have. Unfortunately, although they were lovely and plump, there wasn't really an orangey taste, even with the marmalade as well, which was a shame. I think next time I would put the orange zest in with the sultanas to soak in the alcohol, and if I made the full amount, I'd also think about making two round cakes and sandwiching it with marmalade for that full orangey hit.

Like the last cake I made from this book, this one has a crumbly topping, but this time I don't think it really added anything (the coffee and nut streusel was a definite enhancement to the previous one). It just makes it hard to take out of the pan, and messy to cut and eat. So next time I'll bin the crumble, put the orange zest in the cake, and maybe just make an orange/sugar syrup for the top.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Coffee cake - needs tweaking?

Another recipe from Hannah Miles' Big Book of Cakes and Cookies, number 49: coffee streusel layer cake.

I found this tricky to make and, while it tastes good, I think I would try to tweak it if I did it again.

  • 115g caster sugar, softened
  • 115g butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g self raising flour, sifted
  • 4tbsp milk
  • 85g walnut pieces
  • 115g soft brown sugar
  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 1tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 30g butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1tbsp instant coffee in 1tbsp boiling water
  • 30g walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease or line an 8" square pan.

To make the streusel, whizz the walnuts (85g), brown sugar, plain flour and coffee granules in a blender, to fine crumbs. Add cooled melted butter and whizz again. Set aside.

For the cake, cream butter (115g) and caster sugar until fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs. Fold in SR flour and milk with large metal spoon.

Spread half the cake mix on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with half the streusel mixture. Spread the rest of the cake mix on top, and finish with the remaining streusel. Bake for 1h-1h30, testing with a skewer.

To make the icing, blend the coffee and icing sugar. Drizzle over the cake and top with the remaining walnuts.

The basic tasks of the recipe were fine. The cake came together nicely, and the streusel was dead easy in the herb chopper of my stick blender. The problem started when putting it all into the tin.

The batter was very stiff; spreading half of it over the 8" tin was hard work to get it even, and it gave quite a thin layer. Spreading the streusel was fine, but then spreading the rest of the batter on top was near impossible. Any movement just caused the top layer of batter to roll over, picking up streusel with it. It was like trying to butter sand. I tried to place small blobs of batter all over the area, to cut the amount of spreading needed, but it was still tricky and I gave up trying to spread it all the way to the edges. There was plenty of streusel to cover this fact up!

Baking took 1h25 in my electric fan oven. After 1hr I covered the top with a square of foil to stop the streusel burning (it didn't show any signs, but I didn't want to risk it) - it finished a nice even brown. Once cooled, I unpeeled the cake from the baking parchment and cut a square. The streusel held together pretty well - I was worried it might all just crumble off as soon as you touched the cake. However, I was quite disappointed with the cake in that it was too shallow, and the "middle" layer of streusel was near if not on the bottom. I didn't bother with the icing and walnuts on the top.

It still tastes good, though, and the streusel topping gives an interesting texture which I like and will try again. But I would be tempted to try a smaller tin, or maybe a loaf tin, to make more of the layer effect (I guess I would only need about half the amount of streusel, too). And I would probably modify the sponge recipe (or use another) so as to get a looser and more easily spreadable mixture. I don't know if this one was supposed to be so stiff - the only thing I can think of is that my eggs may have been medium and not large as they were from an unlabelled box. I had well-softened butter, the right amount of milk, and beat the mix well with a hand mixer. Curious!

Never mind. It's a shame, as the other recipes of Hannah's I've tried have been good, but it's still cake, and it will still get eaten :)