Winter and Piña Colada Cake

Hello there readers, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything so I figure it’s about time I told you about my life and new baking inventions. As it’s been so long I thought I’d just give you a few highlights from the last few months:


  • We moved into our new house! We are now officially homeowners like real grownups. And as real grownups we unpacked the essentials first, like the nerf guns and the trampoline. . .
  • img-20170205-wa0000

    Living room


    Our new house!


  • Christmas: we spent Christmas day with family in York including Christmas dinner in my nana-in-law’s sheltered flats for around 20 people including 3 elderly people who had nowhere to go on Christmas. It was chaos but wonderful chaos.
  • I also got to cut my sister’s ‘gender reveal’ cake  which was yellow on the outside (complete with icing sperm on it) and either pink or blue in the middle. It was a complete surprise for me but sadly the rest of my family found out early because Percy had told them how he made a blue cake. Never trust a toddler to keep a secret.

The Hastings Clan


Gender reveal cake. It looked more blue in real life.


  • Last week after 6 months on the infectious diseases ward I said goodbye to the team and have moved on to the elderly care ward. ID was chaos at times but I saw a huge variety of interesting conditions and I got on really well with the staff there so I was sad to leave. As a thank you I decided to bake something for the ward. I’m not quite sure where this idea came from but I really liked the thought of doing a piña colada cake (pineapple, coconut and rum) so I had a couple of trial runs to try and work out a recipe. This is version 3.0:

Piña Colada Cake



  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup liquidized pineapple (I used 1 can of tinned pineapple)
  • 1/4 cup of rum (I used Morgans spiced rum)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a cake tin. I used an 18 inch tin with a loose bottom.
  2. Mixed the sugar and butter together until smooth
  3. Add the tinned pineapple (without the juice) to a blender and blend until smooth
  4. Add the pineapple, rum, eggs and desiccated coconut and mix well (it will look separated at this point but don’t worry).
  5. Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix until combined
  6. Add the mixture to the cake tin and bake at 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean
  7. Share

P.s. the icing I made is butter, rum, lime juice and icing sugar but I didn’t measure quantities I’m afraid. I tend to just add things until it looks the right consistency!


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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Uncategorized


Mountain Bike Mishaps and Night Shift Granola Bars

Last week we both had a week of annual leave and took a trip to Liverpool, Scotland and then York to get away for a bit. We started off in Liverpool for my nephew Percy’s second birthday party which was a wonderful chaos of children, food and a multitude of toys. Percy seems to be enjoying himself but got a bit scared of Elisha when he decided to wear all of the party hats at once. I can’t understand why.


After the party we headed to Scotland to stay in a place called ‘the rural retreat’ which turned out to be someone’s house turned B&B run by a lovely couple and a rather excitable dog. There were various activity places nearby so we decided to try out mountain biking on one of the days. Elisha has been mountain biking before but I was definitely a beginner so we followed the advice of the bike hire man and did some easier blue trails before we went for the fun looking red trail. Maybe I got a bit too confident though because coming down the red trail I tried a small jump. I landed ok but then veered off spectacularly into a rock and was thrown head first over the handlebars with my bike landing on top of me. Unfortunately we were still near the top of the trail with no other way down I had to carry on cycling, very cautiously now, down to the bottom. I was worried I’d fractured my scaphoid bone so we took a detour to Perth A&E to get it checked out. Thankfully it was fine so we headed back feeling battered and bruised but grateful I didn’t have to wear a cast for the next 6 weeks!


On our final weekend of annual leave we went to York and did more walking, this time with family including our 2 year old niece who did an impressive job of walking up steps that were nearly bigger than her. Saturdays walk ended in a steam train ride and a tea and cake stop which was a significant improvement on the A&E stop from earlier in the week. Sundays walk also had a good stop – a tree that was brilliant for climbing as well as being full of apples. We walked back with several bags of free apples which we’d managed to remove from the tree with a combination of my climbing and Elisha’s mum’s boat hook.


Before our week of leave I had a run of night shifts which always fills me slightly with dread because I usually feel like a zombie by the end of the week. I’m never quite sure what food to take on night shifts because I no idea what i’m going to fancy eating at 3am. I usually take a sandwich and try and convince my body that it’s lunch time but what I actually feel like is something between breakfast cereal and overly greasy takeaway food like the kind you often end up eating after a night out. So in an attempt to be healthy this week, I’ve made these nutty oat bars. They are closer to a breakfast cereal than a takeaway but that’s probably a good thing.


Night Shift Granola Bars



  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (I used almonds but walnuts or peanuts are also good)
  • 1/2 cup seeds (I used sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup of pitted dates (a well packed cup)
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter


  1. Heat you oven to 175 degrees and toast the oats and almonds for 15 minutes until pale golden brown
  2. Put the dates into a food processor and mix until they form a kind of ball of date dough (a word of advice – I tried doing this with a hand blender and ended up decorating the kitchen with pieces of date. Use a food processor).
  3. At the oats, nuts, seeds and dates into a large bowl and put to one side
  4. In a small pan, heat the maple syrup and peanut butter until melted together
  5. Pour the syrup/peanut butter mix into the bowl and mix together with the oats etc
  6. Line a baking tin with clingfilm and tip the mixture into the tin and press down
  7. Cover the top with cling film and press down again with something flat (I used a munchkin game box but a good hardback book is probably better)
  8. Refrigerate for about half an hour, then chop into bars (I chopped then into 12 bars)
  9. Share around.
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


Medicine, Mortgages and Mango Cake

Hello again. It’s been a while since I wrote on this blog as we had a different one for our adventures in Papua New Guinea (see if you’re interested). We are now back in the UK and settling into our new home in Bradford with the crazy Ewbanks who we are staying with while we look at buying a house. I temporarily regressed into a child when we got back from PNG and spend a wonderful 2 weeks playing with my nieces and nephews, doing handstands and drawing smiley faces on other people’s feet.

me and percy

Me and Percy on the beach



The Hastings clan let loose with sharpies

Now though I have reluctantly returned to the world of adulthood to start my new job in infectious diseases and do really grown up things like applying for a mortgage. Admittedly I am super excited by the prospect of owning our own house but I’d rather we could just skip all the boring paperwork and get the the house-owning bit. The job however is going great. I have an amazing team, a slightly crazy collection of patients and a chance to use my new found tropical medicine experience. Last week we had 2 cases of malaria, 1 case of TB, 1 case of HIV and a mysterious febrile illness in a returning traveler that we never quite got to the bottom of. It was probably just flu but I’d like to think it was something exotic.

Outside of work I have started aerial silks again, attempted to sew an ereader cover, tried out a new church (which has a starbucks in it – what’s with that?!) and played many board games with my new housemates. I also seem to have made friends with the house cat who is very needy and won’t let me read without sitting on my shoulder. I’m considering getting a restraining order.


My recent sewing projects – an ereader cover and a washbag

So to the cake. This mango and coconut cake was made purely because we had half a tin of mango pulp that needed using up and I was in a baking mood. If you can’t get hold of tinned mango pulp (or would prefer using fresh mangoes) you can mash up fresh mangoes instead and add an extra 1/2 cup of sugar.

Mango and Coconut Cake


Tasty mango cake with a cup of tea in my favorite ‘tea-rex’ mug


  • 1 1/2 cups of sweetened mango pulp (or fresh mangoes – see above)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees and grease a baking tin
  2. Add the mango, margarine and sugar and mix well with a spoon or electric mixer until fluffy
  3. Add in the eggs and mix again
  4. Fold in the flour, bicarb and grated coconut
  5. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and springy
  6. Eat! Hot with cream or cold with a cup of tea, both are good.



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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


Leaving Liverpool with Chocolate Coconut Cake

Well this is it. Our house is empty, our suitcases are packed and my last shift is finished. We are preparing to say goodbye to Liverpool and fly out to New Zealand and then Papua New Guinea where we will be volunteering at Rumginae hospital for 5 months. We’re so excited!



Rumginae hospital


I haven’t written a blog for months so I will sum up the last few months. I have been working on a winter pressures/clinical pharmacology ward for the last few months which started off horrendously stressful as it was just me and a consultant covering a 24-bedded ward; however once the staffing levels improved it was a lot of fun. I have seen a wonderful variety of conditions, seen patients in the infectious diseases clinic, laughed, cried, went on strike and become fit enough to walk up the 9 flights of stairs to our ward without collapsing.

We had a bit of a shock recently when Elisha became ill and was admitted to hospital. He was breathless and feverish and I took him in expecting it to be a chest infection but we quickly discovered he was actually in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) – a serious complication of diabetes. Neither of us had any idea that he had diabetes so it came as a bit of a shock! He is doing well now and getting used to taking insulin and we are very grateful to the diabetes nurses who have been helping him work out how we can still go to Papua New Guinea.

To celebrate our trip and say thank you to my lovely colleagues I made a chocolate and coconut cake:


Here is the recipe:


  • 275g caster sugar
  • 175g margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g coconut yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 225f self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Desiccated coconut


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and grease (+/- line)
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth
  3. Add in the eggs one by one and mix
  4. Add the yoghurt and vanilla essence
  5. Fold in the cocoa, flour and bicarbonate of soda
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes
  7. Once it’s cooled, make the icing
  8. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of boiling water
  9. Stir in the vanilla essence and icing sugar
  10. Spread the icing over the cake and cover with desiccated coconut
  11. Share and enjoy
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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Uncategorized


Endings, Beginnings and Apple and Mincemeat Strudel.

Well that’s it. I’ve finished my diploma in tropical medicine. I can’t believe how fast 3 months has gone! I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and learnt about everything from HIV and malaria to loa loa (the worm that crawls across your eye), the plague, ebola, O’nyong nyong, and cats that mess with your brain. We’ve looked at worms down a microscope, written limericks about HIV, sung songs about schistosomiasis and had presentations about leo the lepradillo. The exams may have been a bit stressful but I would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone.

We been in full celebration mode since exams finished; on Monday by 70 of us cramming into an amazing Greek restaurant called Zorbas which was total chaos but a lot of fun. Last night we had ‘international night’ with champagne, awards, amazing Senegalese food, a Senegalese band and our very own LSTM band called the Leishmanias.


I feel sad to be finishing the course and leaving all the incredible people I have met here but we have exciting new things to come. Firstly I’m starting a new job on Monday on the infectious diseases unit and clinical pharmacology unit in Liverpool. It’s a really exciting opportunity which just sort of fell into my lap but I am very grateful for! Secondly we are going to Papua New Guinea! We have been in contact with a hospital called Rumingae out there who have said they would love to have us in the new year. Its a small 60 bed hospital seemingly in the middle of the jungle where I will being going out as a general medical doctor and Elisha will be doing a variety of things to help out round the hospital from IT to handyman jobs. I think he needs a cool job title like chief of miscellaneous stuff. Suggestions on a postcard for a better alternative. We’ll be there from March till July 2016.

This recipe is my celebrating-the-end-of-exams desert that is an amalgamation of a BBC and a Nigella recipe.

Apple and Mincemeat Strudel

IMG_20151125_082344962 (2)


  • 2 large cooking apples
  • 1 jar of mincemeat (411g)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling on top
  • 1 egg or milk for brushing the top
  • 500g packet of puff pastry
  • Optional – 1 tbsp alcohol (I used a berry liqueur I bought from a roadside stall in Montenegro. You probably can’t get hold of that though).


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Peel and core the apples and chop into large chunks
  3. Add the mincemeat, spices, lemon juice, sugar (and alcohol if using) and stir together
  4. Roll out the pastry to approximately 30 by 45 cm with the short age facing you
  5. Lay the filling down the centre leaving 8-10 cm either side of the filling and 1-2cm at either end
  6. Now you get to make the lattice: starting at the top cut a line on each side of the filling leaving about 0.5cm between the end of your line a the filling. Cut another line 1-2cm further down. Now cut a line 0.5cm further down and remove the 0.5cm strip you’ve just made. Continue that pattern all the way down both sides of the pastry until you have a comb-like pattern.
  7. Next take each strip of pastry and cross them over the filling to create a lattice pattern. Fold the top and bottom ends in.
  8. Brush the top with egg/milk and 1 tbsp sugar and cook for 20-25 minutes until the top has browned.




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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Snakes, bugs and pigs in mud

Well it’s been an eventful few weeks, one way and another.

Firstly we had an awesome week in the tropical medicine school, the highlight of which was the trip to the herpeterium. No I didn’t know what that word meant either. It turns out most of the top floor of the building is full of venomous snakes that they keep in Really Useful Boxes with holes in the lid and every now and then extract venom from them. We had a tour from a guy with the most macho sounding job in the world (‘I extract venom from deadly snakes for a living, what do you do?’) and heard how he had the record for the least number of bites on the unit (only 3). We also had a demonstration of them extracting venom from the snakes which was quite exciting to watch but I was quite glad to be the other side of a protective screen.


Last weekend my family converged on Coventry to celebrate Sarah’s 21st birthday, which is where the cake comes into this blog. I was having baking withdrawal symptoms so really wanted to make a birthday cake for Sarah. I decided on a pigs in mud cake just because they look cool and who doesn’t want to make miniature pigs out of icing! My issue with cakes that look good though is that they are often boring sponge inside, so in an effort to combat this, mine is a cappuccino cake. It has 3 layers, chocolate, coffee and vanilla which I like to imagine look like layers of earth but maybe that’s taking it a bit far.




Spot where I ran out of chocolate fingers.

The weekend started off nicely but not long into it Han came down with a vomiting bug, and not long after everyone else had succumbed. For some reason Elisha was fine which he tells me he has a ‘superior immune system’. I told him I was going to swap immune systems with him which led to me daydreaming for sometime about how you would actually swap immune systems with someone. Don’t ask. Thankfully it was all over very fast but I’m not sure it was the birthday Sarah was hoping for.

On that pleasant note, here is the recipe:

Cappuccino Pigs in Mud Cake


  • 12 oz butter
  • 12 oz sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 12 oz self-raising flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs instant coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbs cocoa
  • 50g melted dark chocolate

For the chocolate ganache

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 25g butter
  • 60ml milk

Chocolate fingers and pink icing


  1. Grease (and line if you have the energy) 3 baking tins if the same size. Preheat the over to 175 degrees
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder in a large bowel and whisk together until smooth
  3. Separate the mixture equally into 3 bowls
  4. In the first one simply add a tsp of vanilla essence and spoon into the first tin
  5. For the second layer mix 1 tbs of instant coffee with 1 tbs hot water and mix together
  6. Add the coffee to the second bowl, mix and spoon into the second tin
  7. Now the chocolate layer. Melt 50g of chocolate by putting it into a heat-proof bowl over a pan of water and stir until liquid
  8. Add the melted chocolate and 1 tbs cocoa powder to the third bowl and spoon into the third tin
  9. Put the cakes in the oven for 20-25mins each (you may need to do this in batches
  10. When they are bornw and top and spring back to your touch, take them out and leave to cool
  11. To make the ganache, melt the remaining 100g chocolate in a pan with the butter.
  12. When it’s melted, stir in the milk and whisk together
  13. Leave to cool until thickening
  14. Assemble the cakes with a layer of icing in between (I used buttercream – I’m just going to go ahead and assume most people know how to make some kind of buttercream icing)
  15. Cover with the ganache and place the chocolate fingers around it whilst the ganache is still soft
  16. Make some pigs to go on top!

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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


Celebratory Whiskey and Ginger Truffles

There’s been a lot to celebrate recently, and naturally this provides a great excuse to bake. Although this isn’t baking technically, it’s more rolling up chocolately balls of goodness and coating them in more chocolate but I’m including it under baking anyway.

The first thing to celebrate is that I passed my MRCP part 1 exam! It was a massive relief because I had literally spent months revising for it and it cost me £400 just for the pleasure of sitting it so I wasn’t really keen on the idea of having to sit it more than once.

The second major cause for celebration recently is our first wedding anniversary! I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since we got married because it still only seems like last week and yet at the same time it feels like we have been married for ever. We celebrated with a weekend away in the lake district in which we spent a morning exploring caves and an afternoon sitting on a bench reading and pondering when we got old. We were hoping to do a bit more walking in the lakes but unfortunately Elisha injured his ankle recently so we’ve had to take it slow.

The ankle injury actually feels a bit like bad karma, if I believed in such things. A few weekends ago we went to Cornwall as I’d given Elisha a landboarding lesson for Christmas and it was due to expire. Saturday night we stayed at someone’s house who recommended a cider festival to go to. When we got there though we discovered that entry was £25 each and didn’t include any actual cider, or anything other than entrance to a field with lots of stalls selling overpriced cider and the odd tent with bands I’d never heard of playing over the din of drunken conversations. It was also very busy, very muddy and with long queues for anywhere that actually sold cider to once we got inside we decided quite quickly that we wanted to leave again. We were sure we would be able to get our money back though so in a moment of inspiration I hobbled back to the payment cubicle and told them I had injured by ankle in the muddy field and I really wanted to go home so could we have a refund. The lovely lady took pity on my a refunded my money, so feeling quite bad we tried to get a taxi back. We ended up sharing a cab with another group who were leaving but as we got to their destination the taxi driver informed us that he might have another job and he couldn’t take us all the way so instead left us at a bus stop. A hour later we finally got back to our accommodation tired and hungry and having to explain to our host who’d recommended the festival why we had come back so soon. I thought I’d stick with the whole ankle-injury-in-the-mud story so I carried on feigning my limp while we looked up somewhere to go for dinner. Then, as we were leaving for dinner, Elisha fell down a step and really did injury his ankle. We had an interesting job explaining it to our host the next morning!

Back to our wedding anniversary, as year 1 is meant to be paper I decided on making an origami box and filling it with truffles as my present to Elisha. They went down well so here is my recipe:

Whiskey and Ginger Truffles



  • 150 g good quality dark chocolate (I used 100g plain and 50g plain with ginger)
  • 25 g soft butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped stem ginger
  • 1.5 tbsp whisky
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 25 g light muscovado sugar
  • Cocoa, sifted, for coating


  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a pyrex bowl with the butter, stem ginger and whiskey.
  2. In a pan heat the cream and sugar together until just starting to boil
  3. Pour the hot cream over the bowl with the chocolate mixture and stir.
  4. Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water for a few minutes and continue to stir until the chocolate and butter are melted
  5. Place the mixture in the fridge for about 2 hours until it has started to solidify
  6. After 2 hours, remove from the fridge and roll the mixture into balls using approximately a heaped teaspoon of mixture for each truffle
  7. Roll the balls in sifted cocoa and return to the fridge to finish cooling
  8. Tansfer them to a box for giving away/eat and hide the evidence
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Posted by on October 10, 2015 in Uncategorized