Dessert, Easy, Sweet

A Public Private Life / Maltesers Cake

A very rushed, last minute piece of writing today. I had an opinion piece written for tonight on a topic that may have ruffled some feathers. And now, 20 minutes before publishing, I realise in a panic that I can’t publish it.

I met up with some girlfriends today for brunch and we spoke about the dangers inherent in thinking our online lives are private in any way. The words and images we post stay with us for the rest of our lives.

I find this leads me to a quandary when writing online. I may have an opinion I hold to be true, but am I going to hold that opinion in ten years time when a potential employer conducts an online search before offering me a role? Or, I could share photos and details of my family on here, but am I comfortable with all potential outcomes to that?

I’m hugely relieved that Facebook and the like weren’t around when I was a teenager and at university. The thought that some of the photos from those days, currently hidden in physical form in my attic, would be available for public perusal fills me with horror. I wasn’t a classy drinker. I made some shockingly poor choices (as I think lots of us do) in the photos I allowed to be taken of me. There’s a particularly lovely one that springs to mind of me, wearing a dress the size of a large belt, throwing up in bushes after a day of drinking.

Ask me when I was a student if I was ashamed of any photograph, I would have loudly proclaimed something noble and self-righteous, like, “I am who I am and I’m not ashamed.” Sweet, but completely untrue 15 years later, when I’m passionately relieved that I don’t have to live with them in my 35 year old life.

With that in mind, I strongly believe in the views I had written for tonight, but during some meditation I realised that I felt a disquiet at the thought that these views would be associated with me for the rest of my life. I’m conscious that, as someone who’d like to work as a writer, and currently wants to keep my options as open as possible, this view could close a few doors.

I also feel guilty for pulling the pin, like I’m slightly cowardly for not standing loud and proud before my thoughts, but I can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right, and until I clarify that the fear is unreasonable, the post’s staying in drafts. I just wish I’d been as able to listen to my instincts when I was younger.

But here’s some photos and a recipe I am happy to share from my son’s 2nd birthday last weekend. We had an afternoon of good company, laughter and too much sugar. We found our son hiding under a table while sneaking icing into his mouth in large quantities and had to laugh at how impressed he was with his deception.


For the cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”)

  • 300g soft light brown sugar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 350ml full cream milk
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbl sp Horlicks (or any chocolate malt powder)
  • 350g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the vanilla frosting

  • 350g unsalted butter softened
  • 550g pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ tbl sp vanilla essence
  • A large pinch of salt
  • 8 tbl sp double cream


  • About 500g maltesers (for similar products in your country, look here)

To make the sponge

Preheat the oven to 170˚C / 340˚F

Butter and line two 20cm x 30cm x 5cm baking tins with baking parchment

Whisk together the sugars and eggs

Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks in a saucepan until the butter melts, and it’s hot but not boiling

When the sugars and eggs are light and frothy, beat in the hot Horlicks mixture and then fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda

Divide the cake evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently.

Let them cool on the rack while you make the frosting

To make the frosting

Place softened butter into a large bowl and whisk until it’s smooth and has lightened

Add the icing sugar, half a cup at a time, whisking all the while

After each full cup of icing sugar, whisk the icing as fast as you can for about 30 seconds (I use an electric whisk and turn it to high), this will lighten the colour and texture of the finished frosting

Add the vanilla and salt and whisk until completely combined

Add the cream slowly until you have the frosting at your preferred consistency

If the frosting becomes too loose, slowly add more icing sugar to firm

To finish the cake

Sandwich the cold sponges with about a third of the frosting, and then finish the top and sides with the remaining frosting

Starting from the base of the cake, place the Maltesers in rows on top of each other, pushing lightly into the frosting to cement them in place

Store in an airtight container in the fridge until serving


9 thoughts on “A Public Private Life / Maltesers Cake

  1. I totally sympathise and agree with the comment about intuition too. I am so thankful Facebook didn’t exist in my younger years and often question what I publish now it’s a hard balance between being authentic and not overtly cautious. Great post.


  2. Emilio Pasquale says:

    I was hoping for photos of your son sneaking the icing. But for feeling “slightly cowardly for not standing loud and proud before [your] thoughts, you should always go with your feelings!


  3. That Malteser cake was legendary stuff, my son went a bit mad for it! I have a few blog-fear-moments but thankfully such a small readership (of about five!) I’m not deleting anything…yet…But I recently found myself removing from FB a very cute video of my boy, naked and playing with our cat. No privacy settings could make me want to leave it there more than an hour. Trust your gut. You will publish it to the right audience one day.


    • Thank you for such a lovely comment! And it’s an interesting point about number of readers affecting what I’m happy to publish. I’ve definitely noticed that I’m more self-conscious now I know people are actually reading what I write.


  4. I’ve actually posted pieces that I later go back and pull because I knew, deep down, when I originally wrote, that it wasn’t good behavior. I’m fortunate in that few people read my blog so I have the luxury of redeeming myself.


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