Karen Doidge Hill has always been very creative, with her first love being fashion design. She grew up in Cornwall before moving to London to study at London College of Fashion. After graduating, she opened a boutique which also had concessions in Top Shop. With the advent of children, she moved back to Cornwall and discovered her love of baking. She opened Quench Juice Café and had many happy years making cakes. When her daughter started being cast in films and chose to study at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the family moved back to London. Here, Karen began making cakes for friends and colleagues and started ‘Small Wonders’ making cakes for special occasions and creating cakes for people with special dietary needs. She also started writing baking and cake articles. Karen now lives locally in Milford.

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel ‘Rolo’ Brownies
As my nephew doesn’t eat peanut butter in the recipe below, I have been asked to make some of my ‘Rolo’ Brownies. This recipe is one of my easiest ever and whenever I have children staying I get them to help me make them.

200g unsalted butter, 200g good quality 70% dark chocolate, 125g muscovado sugar, 125g caster sugar, 4 eggs, 125g plain flour, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp good quality cocoa powder 1 tsp sea salt, 4 tubes of ‘Rolos’ – 2 chopped and 2 left whole.

Makes 16 squares.

1. First heat your oven to 150º C fan.
2. To begin melt the chocolate together with the butter over a low heat. In a separate bowl, beat together both sugars with the eggs until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture, then sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix all together along with the sea salt. Stir in chopped ‘Rolos’, and pour into your prepared tin. Press the remaining “Rolos” into the mixture.
3. Bake for 25-30 mins, until firm to touch, but still nice and gooey in the middle. Remember with Brownies, they will continue to set as they cool.
4. Leave in the tin to cool completely and then transfer to a chopping board to slice. These are fantastic eaten warm with a good dollop of vanilla ice cream, and so very easy to make. Delicious!

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Salted Caramel and Nut Brittle
I have been eagerly awaiting the new Great British Bake Off series, which is always watched by the whole family. This year we missed the first few episodes as the family was having great fun on holiday in Gibraltar. It was my daughters 17th birthday, so I had to make her a special cake – very tricky with such a limited kitchen. In fact, the first hurdle was a lack of scales. I managed to improvise using the luggage scales, a shoe lace and a saucepan – this would be so much easier at home. My daughter’s choice was for a combination of all her favourite things – dark chocolate, cheesecake, peanut butter and salted caramel. No problem. The recipe is rather complicated, but as long as you take it step by step, it will be a piece of cake!

For the base: 500g Oreo Cookies, 100g butter.
For the Cheesecake filling: 200g good quality 70% dark chocolate, 500g full fat cream cheese, 300g mascarpone cheese, 200g sour cream, 150g smooth peanut butter, 1 large free range egg, 170g muscovado sugar, 5 tbsp good quality cocoa powder.
For the Salted Caramel Sauce: 30g unsalted butter, 100ml double cream, good pinch of sea salt.
For the Chocolate Ganache: 100g good quality 70% dark chocolate, 200ml double cream.
For the peanut Brittle: 160g caster sugar, 30g salted peanuts.

Makes 12-16 portions.

1. To make the cheesecake, the first thing is to preheat your oven to 180C/Fan 160C. Then begin with the base. Blend your Oreo cookies in a food processor to get a fine crumb, then add to your melted butter. Tip into your cake tin and press down until tightly compacted, covering the base and coming up the sides. Place in the fridge to set.
2. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, add the mascarpone cheese, sour cream and peanut butter. Mix in the egg, sugar, and cocoa powder. Lastly add the cooled chocolate and stir. Pour the mixture into your cake tin on top of the base.
4. Half fill a large roasting tin with boiling water and place into your oven. Wrap your cake tin with tin foil so water cannot get in, and place into the roasting tin. Top up with boiling water, and then bake in your oven for one hour and 15 mins. Remove the cake from the oven, allow to cool and place in your fridge.
5. To decorate your cheesecake, first start with the salted caramel. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat and melt slowly. Do not stir the mixture, gently swirl the pan to incorporate all the sugar. When it turns a golden brown, add the butter and stir. Add the cream and stir to get a silky smooth caramel sauce, then add a good pinch of sea salt. I use this sauce all the time, especially over vanilla ice cream or fruit. Cool the caramel completely, then pour over the top of the cheesecake letting it pour over the sides. Put it back in the fridge to await the final coating.
6. To make the chocolate Ganache, heat the cream in a pan over a medium heat until just beginning to bubble. Pour over the dark chocolate and stir until they have melted together to make a thick shiny sauce. Let this cool and then drizzle over the caramel topped cheesecake. Return to the fridge until ready to serve.
7. Lastly, to make the brittle shards, melt the sugar the same way as for the caramel. But this time when it turns golden brown, carefully pour onto a greased piece of greaseproof paper and quickly scatter on your peanuts. Allow to cool completely, and when ready to serve snap into shards and arrange on top of your cheesecake.
8. This cake is very, very rich, and you will only need a small slice. It is delicious served with ice-cream.