Sweet things in just six minutes

By PA/TPN, in Food and Drink · 12-06-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

Did you know it is possible to make meringue in a microwave? How about almost-instant ice cream with a freezer bag and some rock salt? Or a whole cake in the time it takes to boil an egg?

It sounds like chemistry-lab level alchemy, but these are just some of the miraculous-sounding baking tips Northern Irish food writer Sarah Rainey shares in her new cookbook, 6-minute Showstoppers.

"If you can make egg whites and sugar come together and puff up in the microwave," she explains, "you're halfway there to making an entire pavlova." Her coconut berry pavlova genuinely takes six minutes to make, and probably even fewer to scoff.

When it comes to baking, Rainey has a history of making the daunting and complicated seem suddenly achievable. Her debut cookbook, 3-Ingredient Baking, set out to eliminate cake-related complications. Barely any ingredients in your cupboards, and very few baking techniques under your belt? No problem.

"If we ever needed cake, this is the time," says Rainey, and the treats in 6-minute Showstoppers aim to hit the sweet spot between swift, simple and delicious. There are red velvet mug cakes, rum pineapple skewers, sloe gin jellies, Welsh cakes, Nutella ravioli and a ridiculously good-looking molten Mars Bar spoon cake. Throughout, Rainey utilises clever hacks so your sugar hit is on the table before anyone in your household has time to moan a second time that they just need a biscuit.

"I hope that people will be impressed with what you can make in six minutes," says Rainey. "I hope that they're impressed with themselves."

There are a few savoury recipes to be found amongst the pages too - halloumi fritters, a frying pan pizza, a microwavable shakshuka - but most are unabashedly sugary "because that's where my real indulgence is, I have a hugely sweet tooth," says Rainey. "Most of them are terribly bad for you, but terribly delicious."

And if there was a perfect moment to eat delicious things, she reiterates, now "is a good time to do it."

"It makes people happy," says Rainey. "We're going back to traditional, old-school hobbies and activities, and baking is the ultimate example. You put a little bit of yourself into baking. To give someone a cake or a biscuit or a dessert that you've made, it's really baked with love - even if you do it in six minutes, that doesn't mean you put any less effort in. You probably put more in to try and get it done in the time.

Frozen Nutella Loaf

(Serves 8-10)

1 x 400g tub Nutella

50g unsalted butter

200g Hobnobs (13-14 biscuits)

400g cream cheese

80g icing sugar, sifted

50g chopped roasted hazelnuts


1. Line a standard loaf tin (approx. 2lb or 1 litre) with cling film, completely covering the base and sides and making sure there's plenty of excess overlapping the edges. I use three strips - one for each long side and one for the middle. Place a medium saucepan on the hob and turn the heat up high. You'll also need a food processor (or a ziplock bag and a rolling pin) for crushing the biscuits, and a whisk.

2. Put 150g Nutella and the butter in the pan and melt, stirring often so they don't burn.

3. Meanwhile, blitz the biscuits in the food processor until they turn to crumbs, or you can put them in a ziplock bag and bash them with a rolling pin.

4. When the mixture in the pan has melted to a smooth chocolate paste, tip the biscuit crumbs into the pan and stir until combined. Pour this into the lined loaf tin and use the back of a spoon to press it down.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining Nutella with the cream cheese and sifted icing sugar until smooth. Tip this into the loaf tin and spread on top of the biscuit base.

6. Finish with the chopped hazelnuts, covering the surface right to the edges. Wrap the excess cling film over the top of the loaf to cover it and place in the freezer for three to four hours to set.

7. Remove from the freezer around 20 minutes before serving and slice with a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. If you don't eat it all in one go, keep the rest of the loaf, well covered, in the freezer - it should last for two to three months.

Jammy thumbprint cookies


(Makes 12)

250g ground almonds

1 egg

60ml coconut oil, melted

3tbsp maple syrup

1tsp vanilla extract

140g fruit jam of your choice


1. Preheat the oven to 250°C (fan 230°C) and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

2. Mix the almonds, egg, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract together in a bowl until they come together into a loose dough.

3. Roll blobs of dough (around the size of ping-pong balls) between your palms and spread them out on the baking sheet.

4. Flatten them with your fingers until the cookies are around 1cm thick. Then squidge your thumb into the centre of each to create a deep dent (make sure you don't make a hole all the way through or the jam will leak out).

5. Fill the dent in each cookie with a heaped teaspoonful of jam.

6. Place the baking sheet of cookies in the oven on the top shelf and cook for four minutes. When they're done, open the door slightly, rotate the baking sheet (to ensure the cookies don't catch or burn) and leave them to cool in the oven with the door ajar for around half an hour. Enjoy hot or cold, with a cup of tea. The cookies will keep for five to six days in an airtight tin.

Choca-mocha cake recipe


(Makes 1 cake, serves 8-10)

30g cocoa powder

3tsp (heaped) instant coffee

175g self-raising flour, sifted

175g caster sugar

60ml semi-skimmed milk

60ml sunflower oil

1 egg

1tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:

1tsp (heaped) instant coffee

130g icing sugar, sifted


1. Grease a 20cm-round, microwave-proof cake dish with a little butter and line the base with greaseproof paper.

2. Mix the cocoa powder and three teaspoons of coffee together in a small bowl and add approximately 100ml boiling water. Stir vigorously until dissolved.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and sugar. Add the coffee mixture, followed by the milk, oil, egg and vanilla extract. Beat to combine.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake dish and microwave on high for four-and-a-half to five minutes, checking throughout. You'll know it's ready when it's risen and spongey (not wet) on top.

5. While the cake bakes, make the icing. In a small bowl, add a splash of water to the remaining teaspoon of instant coffee and mix to make a paste.

6. Mix in the icing sugar, a little at a time, adding more water if you need to, until you have a smooth paste, roughly the texture of thick cream.

7. When the cake is done, carefully tip it out on to a cooling rack and immediately spread the icing over the top (or drizzle, if you're more artistic than me). You may want to put a plate or chopping board underneath the rack as this bit can get messy.

8. If you like, sprinkle chopped walnuts, pecans or coffee beans around the edge of the cake for a pretty finish - do this before the icing sets so they stick.

6-minute Showstoppers by Sarah Rainey, photography by Clare Winfield, is published by Michael Joseph


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