Ziggy Stardust Cake

I’ve called this Ziggy Stardust Cake because I used Hammerton’s Life on Mars and man, oh man, was it good? Yes! It was the best fruit cake I have ever tasted. I am not exaggerating. Mr Rathbone said the same.


Plus, it won first prize in the fruit cake category at the Muswell Hill and District Horticultural Society Spring Show.  I was so proud!


It is the best. And it lasts forever.* I am going to tweak the cooking time now that I understand how my oven works.  I baked my cake at 150 degrees rather than 160 for an hour and 15 minutes – so a lower temperature and 15 minutes shorter than the recipe suggested.  I’m finally getting to know the oven.  We are almost on speaking terms now…

Also, next time I’m going to replace the figs with something else, as I’m not mad on the gritty texture of figs.  The mixture looked very pretty as I was making it…  It’s rich enough to be a Christmas Cake for sure.


This recipe is adapted from the Trappist fruit cake recipe in Paul Mercurio’s Cooking With Beer cookbook.


I highly recommend this brilliant book, as Paul puts it: “If there’s liquid in a recipe, it might as well be beer”. There are lots more recipes in this book I want to try, and I’ll be posting about his divine chocolate brownie recipe soon…


Who would have thought someone who does such a beautiful pasodoble could be such a genius cook too?


Ziggy Stardust Cake

125g unsalted butter, chopped

185g dark brown sugar

375g mixed dried fruit

100g dried cranberries

50g dried figs, chopped small

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

60ml sherry

250ml Hammerton’s Life on Mars

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

100g macadamia nuts, chopped

150g plain (all-purpose) flour

150g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F / Gas mark 2-3).  Grease a 22 cm (8.5 inch) cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper, letting the paper extend about 1 inch higher than the rim of the tin.

Place butter, sugar, dried fruits, spices, bicarbonate of soda, sherry and beer in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir to combine, bring to boil.  Remove from heat and stir again to ensure that the butter and sugar are melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.  Once mixture is lukewarm, add the eggs and nuts and mix through.

Put all the flower in a bowl, and stir to combine.  Fold the flour through the fruit until well incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

  • Paul notes that you should allow the cake to fully cool before you cut it.  He also says that the cake will keep for a week, mine was still good after a week, plus I popped a chunk in the freezer as it was a HEFTY cake.  I’ll report back about how it freezes.  Yum, yum.

Thank you Paul Mercurio for your lovely cake recipe, and thank you David Bowie for the music.  Next time I make this, I’m going to listen to the whole The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album while I am baking…

Ziggy Stardust

Walnut and Cherry Cake with N7

The recipe from this cake is from my favourite beer-y cookbook: Cooking With Beer by Carole Fahy.


What a splendid book it is!  Anyone would love a book that contains recipes that include recipes for Yard of Flannel (a beer and cognac beverage), Party Beer Tomatoes (thinly sliced tomatoes with beer poured over them) and Eels in Beer (versions 1 and 2).


I probably won’t try the Eels in Beer, but there are LOADS of other recipes in this book I’m going to experiment with.  Carole puts beer in EVERYTHING.


If you come round to my house uninvited and expecting dinner, don’t be surprised if I take Carole’s advice and do this..  “By the way, if you do have an unexpected guest, almost any tinned soup is much improved by the addition of a little beer, for an unusual flavour that will disguise its origins.”


Nathan got me some of this soup when he went to the USA recently on condition that I never made him anything with it in (I need it for a Bette Davis recipe that will appear sometime soon on my other blog Silver Screen Suppers)  I bet he’d LOVE it if I diluted it with a bottle of Hammerton beer though…

I love the fact that this photo was in the search results when I looked up Carole’s book – why?  I have no idea.

Alice Cooper

Colonel Saunders with Alice Cooper holding a beer.  Genius!

Anyhow, back to the cake.  This was REALLY GOOD.  Of course, I am sure it was the two tablespoons of Hammerton’s N7 that made it so…

I used tinned cherries from Waitrose rather than glace cherries, and I used walnuts from Ma and Pa Hammerton’s walnut tree.

What is “old ale” listed in the ingredients of this recipe by the way?  Is it a type of beer, or is it just some stale ale you find in a can beside the sofa a few days after you’ve had a rocking big party?



6 oz self-raising flour

pinch salt
6 oz butter
6 oz caster sugar
3 eggs
4 oz glace cherries (halved)
2 oz walnuts (chopped)
2 tablespoons old ale

Heat oven to 350 degrees F, 175 degrees C, gas mark 4, and prepare cake tin*  Sift flour and salt together.  Cream butter in a bowl with sugar.  Beat eggs and whisk into the butter mixture.  Mix 2 tablespoons of flour with the fruit and nuts.  Fold flour into eggs and butter, a third at a time, adding fruit at the end.  Mix with beer.  Turn into cake tin and cook for 1 hour in pre-set oven.  When cake is cooked a fine skewer inserted in it should come away clean.

For cooks who don’t have Imperial measurements on their scales, I find this site brilliant for translating into grams and/or cup measurements – Convert-me.com
*Carole uses the same method as my mum to prepare her cake tin.  She butters the sides and bottom of the tin and then lines with well buttered greaseproof paper – cut to shape (her italics!).  She folds the strip that goes around the inside over by 1/2 inch and makes 1/2 inch cuts in the fold so that you can overlap it and lie flat on the bottom, underneath the greaseproof paper circle for the bottom.  As I had a bit of time, I did prepare my cake tin like this and it was worth the effort.  My cake looked absolutely perfect when I turned it out!
A big hit with my work colleagues!

Jane Wyatt’s Beer Bread

My movie star cooking blog Silver Screen Suppers was ten years old yesterday.  Crikey!  I did a post about my top 50 film star recipes, and this was one.  I had no idea how easy it would be to make bread with beer.  No mucking around with yeast, wondering if your water is warm enough to activate it, or too hot and will KILL IT.  With beer, the beer does all the work.  Magic.

I soooooooo recommend trying this.  First time I made beer bread, I made it with Hammerton’s Islington:

Jane Wyatt's Beer Bread with Hammerton's Islington

Second time with Hammerton’s Pentonville.

Jane Wyatt's Beer Bread with Hammerton's Pentonville

Next time around, I’m going to try it with Life On Mars I think…

Life on Mars

Thanks Jane!  I love your bread recipe…

Jane Wyatt

Jane Wyatt’s Beer Bread

(Makes 1 loaf)

¼ cup butter

3 cups self-raising flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 can beer*

Melt butter in preheated 325 degrees (160 degrees C) oven.  Mix together remaining ingredients; pat into a greased loaf pan.  Drizzle melted butter over bread dough.  Bake at same temperature 1 hour.

* I used one 330ml bottle of Hammerton beer and 1 and1/2 tablespoons water.  I baked my bread at 140 C as I have a fan oven.

Marlene Dietrich’s Banana Nut Bread

Over on my main blog – Silver Screen Suppers – I write about what the stars of the golden era of Hollywood liked to eat and drink.  It’s a lot of fun. Marlene LOVED to cook.  It is well documented that she was always taking pies and cakes to the film set for cast and crew – what a woman!

Marlene Dietrich's Banana Nut Bread with Hammertons Geist Weiss

I made her Banana Nut Bread the other day, and I only had 2 bananas (the recipe calls for 2 and a half), so I made up the difference with some Hammerton beer just to see what would happen.  Mmmm, it was LOVELY.  If you’d like the recipe without beer added, skip over to this blog post.

Marlene Dietrich's Banana Nut Bread with Hammertons Geist Weiss

Here I am on the telebox discussing whether Marlene would have sat and played the musical saw while she waited for her Banana Nut Bread to cook…

Here is the boozy version.  It was lovely.

Marlene Dietrich’s Banana Nut Bread

1 and 3/4 cups / 265 grams sifted all-purpose [plain] flour

3/4 teaspoon soda [bicarbonate of soda]

1 and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup / 85g shortening [I used butter]

2/3 cup / 160g sugar [I used caster sugar]

2 eggs

2 mashed bananas

100ml of Hammertons Geist Weiss

1/2 cup [60g] finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to  moderate (180–190°C / 350–375°F / gas mark 4)

Sift flour; measure and sift again with soda, cream of tartar and salt [note, you only need to measure and sift again if you are using the American measurements, if using gram measurements, sift away with the other ingredients].  Cream shortening; add sugar gradually; and cream until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients alternately with banana pulp; beat until thoroughly combined; and add walnut meats.  Pour into well greased loaf pan (4x9x3); bake 1 hour or until done.


Pentonville Pickled Shallots

When I saw a recipe for Stout Beer Pickled Onions my mind immediately thought of Hammerton’s Pentonville, which is a super delicious Oyster Stout.


As someone who eats pickles on an almost daily basis, I get through a lot of pickled onions, so I always have a jar on the go.  I decided to rustle up a batch of these, using some shallots that were knocking around the place.  They are really good!  It’s an unusual flavour, but I like it.  Next time I think I would go the more traditional route of salting some pickling onions and leaving them overnight, then rinsing them, rather than using the shallots un-pre-salted.  But the stout and vinegar pickling brine itself, is damn good!


The recipe I based mine on is here: Stout Beer Pickled Onions at One Tomato, Two Tomato and I might try this with one of the Hammerton pale ales next time.  I slightly varied the amount of stout to vinegar, as I didn’t want to use just part of a bottle, and I was making a big batch of pickles, but everything else was more or less the same as Tammy Kimbler’s recipe.  Here’s my version.

850g shallots or pickling onions

3 bottles Hammerton’s Pentonville Oyster Stout (330ml each)

740ml white vinegar

3 tablespoons sea salt

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons mustard seeds

3 tablespoons coriander seeds

3 teaspoons juniper berries

Bring vinegar and beer to the boil, add remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar and salt.  Remove from the heat and add shallots.  Let sit for a while until cooled down then pack into sterilized jam jars with the spices.

Tammy recommends storing in the fridge for a month or more.  I think maybe if the onions / shallots went through the salting and rinsing process first, they would last longer?  I need to ask a pickle expert about that one!

Spicy Beer Pickles – Geist Weiss


These are the best pickles I have ever made…  …and I have made a lot of pickles.  So, this is a rocking good recipe to kick off the Beerblog. I gave some to Ma Hammerton for Christmas and she LOVED them, saying: “If you make some more of these, save me some.”  This is the best recommendation a pickle could ever have.

Geist Weiss was the perfect choice for these pickles as it’s a pale colour and has a delicate flavour.  My brother-in-law Andy liked them too, saying they weren’t as vinegar-y as many pickles.  The beer somehow sweetens the vinegar I guess, makes it a more complex flavour.  Sister-in-Law Julia sent a text: “BTW, your pickled cucumber is on the nose.  Love the hot undertones.”  RESULT.


This recipe is adapted from one in The Modern Preserver by Kylee Newton.  This is a gorgeous book and was a present from my friend, the weaver and colour consultant extraordinaire, Ptolemy Mann. Thanks dwarling!


I found that I had to double the amount of brine for the amount of cucumbers recommended by Kylee, but there is no doubt that the ratio of beer to vinegar really works.  Yum, yum, yum.


Spicy Beer Pickles with Hammerton Geist Weiss

1.2kg small pickling cucumbers*

2 garlic cloves

200ml beer

140ml water

400ml cider vinegar

240g golden granulated sugar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons sea salt

1 teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste (I used Waitrose hot chilli flakes)

Makes 4 x 250ml jars

Top and tail the cucumbers and cut into quarters, lengthwise.  Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Prepare the brine by combining all of the ingredients except the cucumbers in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pack the cucumbers lengthwise into warm, dry, sterilised jars.

Pour in the brine to fill the jars to about 5mm below the rim.

Seal and store in the fridge for at least 2-4 days before eating to allow flavours to permeate.  Keep for up to 4 months in the fridge unopened.  Once opened, keep refrigerated and eat within 4 weeks.

*these small cucumbers can be found at some corner shops in the UK, the lovely Polish shop just down the road from me sometimes has them.  I got mine from Ocado for this batch of pickles, and it pleased me greatly that they were the perfect size for my Opies jam jars.  Empty Opies jam jars are always my choice for pickles and chutneys.  The labels soak off really easily, and they are the perfect size for gifts. Plus I love their pickled cocktail gherkins.  Bravo Opies!


What I would like to know is, where can I get TINY gherkin sized cucumbers so that I can have another go at this recipe with some Hammerton’s N1?