Picture inspiration for a Highland Wedding

Beautiful wedding dresses, hunky Korean male models and delicious rice dishes… I’m writing a new book and I’ve put together a board on Pinterest with pictures to inspire me.

I don’t consider myself all that visual, but this time Googling what things look like has been terrifically helpful. First off, I wanted an attractive man to serve as a secondary love interest so I typed in Korean male models. (Research—so hard!) I picked these two delightful gents and now I picture them when I’m writing the scenes my character appears in. I’ve called him Hyun-Ki in my book—partly because it sounds so close to ‘hunky’.

Kim Sun Wang - male model

Antonio Berardi wedding dress

Next, I needed a wedding dress—the kind of thing you might find in a designer shop where the dresses on the mannequins never have a price label on them. I found this Antonio Berardi version. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful? I particularly like the high neckline and the asymmetric hem. And as for the train—a thing of beauty, no?

My characters go to a Korean restaurant so in the interests of research I looked up recipes, stumbling on the gorgeously-titled bibimbap—Korea’s national dish. It’s a mix of rice and veggies, topped with strips of beef, a fried egg and spicy sauce. You use chopsticks to break the yolk and mix it in to the dish along with the sauce.

If you’d like the recipe, it is here. And I’ve included the picture of the dish I made, which was the not-as-pretty as the BBC food version one.bibimbap - rice, beef, veggies and a fried egg Gochugang sauce isn’t widely available so I used sriracha instead, which is super spicy so you don’t need as much.

As my heroine’s intended looks like Jamie Fraser of Outlander fame (or Sam Heughan the actor who plays him), I needed pictures of Jamie/Sam for my board too, and found plenty of lovely ones.


Finally, I looked up wedding cakes. You can find amazing cakes online, but I decided my home-made one topped the lot.

You can see my Highland Wedding board on Pinterest here.

Mint Choc Chip; Cake that Also Freshens Breath

Made by my own fair hand (not the hand in this pic!)

Made by my own fair hand (not the hand in this pic!)

Five months to go to the wedding and I’m still obsessing over making my own cake and what form this should take…

So, I’ve experimented with a Rachel Allen recipe for a chocolate mint cake she has suggested as a  New Year celebration option. There’s a link to the original recipe above, but my own version involved the odd substitution.

A few years ago, I wasn’t that keen on baking as it involved precision, whereas I’m an easy-osy kind of gal. Recipe says one tsp chilli flakes, I immediately think two or three. 25G grated cheese? Nowhere near enough. No onions in the fridge, let’s substitute celery kind of thing.

Then I decided on a cake and fizz theme for my birthday this year and spent a blissful weekend with my mum and sister baking cakes in advance of the event. Oh the joy of measuring, mixing, beating and watching the magic work. It also helps that an afternoon of baking fills your home with warm vanilla scents and produces such delicious results (though my whisky and sultana cake wasn’t that great…)

A few more cakes down the line and confidence creeps in – what if I swapped this for this? I’m not so keen on butter icing (too sweet) either, so mixing and matching toppings and flavourings is fun too. And you wouldn’t believe the number of great baking blogs and websites out there!

Anyway, here it is – my Rachel Allen-inspired mint choc cake:

  • 75g baking margarine
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 3 large, free range eggs
  • 125g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 50ml double cream
  • 100g after dinner mint chocolates (broken into small pieces)
  • Pinch of salt


  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g full-fat cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp green food colouring
  • 20g mint leaves, chopped finely
  • After dinner mint chocolates, halved into triangles

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment paper. Line the sides too, so that they overlap the top of the tin (it makes for a better finish on your cake).

Melt the chocolate and double cream together, either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Beat the margarine, butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (this takes about five minutes, even if you are using an electrical mixer). Add the eggs one at a time and then add the cooled chocolate mix and continuing beating until well combined. Fold in the four, pinch of salt and the broken up chocolate mints. Put the mix in the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the tin for five minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting, mix a tbsp of the icing sugar with the mint leaves and pour over 3tbsp just boiled water. Steep for an hour and then strain (keeping the liquid and discarding the mint leaves). Whisk the double cream together with the liquid until thick. Beat the remaining icing sugar with the cream cheese until combined and then whisk in the double cream. You should get a fairly thick mixture. Add in the green food colouring until you get an even colour.

Use to decorate the top of the cake and then cut into evenly-sized squares. Top each square with a halved after dinner chocolate mint.

VERDICT FROM MY FIVE-YEAR-OLD NIECE: yuck. I’ll put that down to the intense chocolate flavour… And if I was making it again, I’d split the cake and put icing in the middle too.



Red Velvet (Hint: Cakes not Dresses)

Christmas-y and wedding-y at the same time?

Christmas-y and wedding-y at the same time?

Saturday’s topic covered dieting…So now that’s all done and dusted (can you sense the change in tone here from downbeat to very, very upbeat?) we’re back to blogging about cake!

A few weeks ago, I sampled a friend’s incredibly delicious red velvet cake. She also provided a little food history – in ye olden days, the red colour was the result of cocoa reacting with the cake’s other ingredients (buttermilk). As cocoa is a different product now, the red colour doesn’t occur naturally and must be introduced artificially via plenty of food colouring.

Anyway, red velvet cake covered in some kind of white icing and artfully decorated is very festive (and generally celebratory, so a good option for a wedding cake, no?). Here is my Lucy Janes-inspired version…

Red Velvet Cake – cuts into roughly 10 generous slices
200g unsalted butter
150g baking margarine
Six large, free-range eggs
300g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
350g golden caster sugar
2 x 38ml red food colouring bottles
½ tsp salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
1½ tbsp bicarbonate of soda

24cm loose-bottomed baking tin, greased and lined with baking paper. Line the sides too with a double thickness of paper which should extend two inches above the top of the tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Cream together the butter, margarine and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add three of the eggs, one by one, beating thoroughly between each addition.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt and add a third of it to the butter, sugar and eggs. Beat in the rest of the eggs, one by one. Add the vanilla extract and red food colouring and then mix in the white wine vinegar mixed with the bicarb of soda. (For the last bit, mix it in quickly and lightly with a spoon rather than an electric mixer if you’ve been using this for the rest of the cake preparation.)

Pour into the tin and bake immediately for 1 hour 15 mins. Once the cooking time is more than two-thirds of the way through, you can open the oven door to check if you need to put foil on top of the cake to stop it burning.

Take the cake out of the oven and leave to stand for five minutes before turning out onto a rack. Cool thoroughly and then loosely cover and leave overnight. (It’s easier to decorate if you do this the next day.)


300ml double cream, 600g full-fat cream cheese,300g icing sugar, sifted; and 50-75g dessicated coconut (optional)
Using a sharp knife and a steady hand (!), slice the cake in two horizontally. Place the bottom half on a cake stand. Whip the cream until it is stiff and mix together the cream cheese and icing suar. Mix with the cream. Spread evenly over the bottom cake and place the other half of the cake on top and decorate the top and sides with the rest of the icing. Dredge with the coconut, if using.