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Another Secret To Great Cakes

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the products or people I have mentioned in this, or any of my blog posts. I do not receive any financial contributions from any source or company. These are purely my own views.

Welcome back to Another in the series : The Secret to Great Cakes.

If you haven't read the previous post, you should, it's great!

Now you know lots of tips to get you started with your baking, but how do you choose the right recipe in the first place?

Your choice of recipe can make a huge difference to how your bake will turn out.

Here's some more helpful tips about how to get the right recipe for you.

How I choose a recipe will differ from most other peoples.

In my previous life, when I worked for a living, I developed new recipes for Food Manufacturers. It involved a lot of recipe research, very much like you do when looking for a cake recipe, and then altering those recipes to suit the factory they were going to be made in, at the cost they wanted to make them.

This is how I developed the recipe for Millionaires Shortbread that you will find at the end of this blog.

Alternatively, if you would rather watch a video then you can view it in the following group on my Facebook page - How To Bake with Helen.

There's a good reason it uses the word Million in the title, and it doesn't refer to the number of calories associated with said bake, but the sheer number of recipes available.

In the olden days when I was looking for a recipe, I was forced to buy loads of cake books or visit my local library and borrow loads of cake books, because Google had not yet been discovered.

I found the initial recipe in Nigella Lawson's Book : How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

I was very much into Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson so it was logical for me to go to their books first, well I did own them all!

However I didn't like her recipe for the shortbread base. So I went to a recipe in Delia Smith's Book : The Delia Collection Baking, for Shortbread biscuits because I had made it before and liked it better.

But Delia's recipe still wasn't 100% right for me because of one of the ingredients in the mix : Semolina.

When I was a kid we used to be given semolina pudding for dessert at school. I didn't like the texture. When I saw this ingredient it took me straight back to those school dinners. Not a pleasant memory so it put me off using it.

I had to find an alternative that would do the same thing but make it less gritty. (It's ok if you like that kind of texture in your shortbread, but I don't).

I read a lot of shortbread recipes!

One alternative I found was using Cornflour : Easy to get hold of and not too expensive. But the recipes required a lot less than Delia's.

When you are looking for a substitute ingredient, you want to swap the quantity as close to the original as possible otherwise you throw the recipe out of balance. Based on this I rejected Cornflour.

Another ingredient I had seen used was Rice Flour.

It's not a very common ingredient but I knew that it was used as a gluten free alternative. But, gluten free flour is quite expensive and some brands are mixed with Potato Starch. I found a supply in my local supermarket in the alternative ingredient section, then later in a local Asian shop. And the price was right for my recipe.

I swapped the Semolina in the recipe to Rice Flour.

It gives a lovely light feel to the biscuit and it's not gritty.


That's the recipe I put together, complete with the alternatives, and I have to say that it's liked by lots of my customers. They would definitely let me know if something was wrong with it!

Here are my tips for choosing the right recipe for you:

Start with who you know.

Have you watched Marry Berry and you like her way of explaining things, or did you watch The Great British Bake off and remember liking some of the things they made on there.

These are all good sources for your recipe.

Read the recipe.

Do you like how it's set out?

Do they explain how to make the cake or bake, in a way that you can understand?

Do you have to get any specialist ingredients?

Can you see yourself making that recipe?

Do they provide lots of pictures to show you each stage, if you are a beginner?


Once you have read the recipe you need to decide whether you are willing to follow that recipe as it's set out.

Some recipes have so many different stages to them you really can't be bothered. Or they have so many different techniques in that you actually feel overwhelmed before you've even cracked an egg. Or ingredients you have absolutely no idea how to use, let alone where to find them. If I have to order ingredients from a specialist supplier I am less likely to want to make that cake.

What I am trying to say, in a very roundabout but entertaining way, is that if you can't find the recipe that is exactly what you want, change it.

Look for alternatives.


Be brave. This is how family traditions are started.

Here's the final recipe:

Tips for success with this recipe.


  2. Use a good quality chocolate to top with as it will reduce the chances of it blooming.

  3. Follow this video by The Chocolate Company (the makers of Callebaut chocolate) to see how to temper your chocolate in the microwave. This is who I learnt to do it from as i am not a chocolatier. I spent years doing it incorrectly until I saw this video.

  4. Leave the caramel to set overnight to ensure it isn't too soft to slice.

  5. Enjoy every last mouthful!

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