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There's still time to snap up a crafty gift for Christmas that will look great and keep little ones busy in the holidays

Cranberry and pecan cheesecake

Serves 8-10

Christina Patterson: Let the men eat cake (and have a chat)

One of the exhausting things about being a woman is that there's no brief answer to that social stalwart: "How are you?" In the workplace, maybe. In the street, maybe. Even at a party, maybe, but only if you don't know the person asking you well. But with a friend? With any, in fact, of your 20 close friends? Not a chance. There's no way out. Over a glass or 10 of chardonnay, or a slice or 10 of chocolate cake, you'll have to start from the beginning and work your way grimly through to the end.

White chocolate cheesecake

Chocolate cake with damson syrup

Serves 10

Lemon cupcakes

Ingredients to make 12 cupcakes

Guinness cake

This is a nice rich tea-time cake, or you could serve it as a dessert with, say, an ice-cream such as marmalade or ginger. I've served it here with cheese as there is a British tradition, although admittedly not a terribly popular one, to serve fruitcake with cheese. But a cake like this, or even a good old piece of Christmas cake, is really quite delicious with blue cheese – try it.

Treat yourself... have a cupcake

The UK's latest cottage industry is now worth £7.3m. Susie Mesure reports on the irresistible rise of the iced fancy that has instant gratification baked in

Business Diary: NPower's cricket parties run out of gas

With the rain putting the dampeners on the one-day cricket series against Australia, it appears that we will not see a repeat of the "Cricket in the Park" bashes that the Test sponsor Npower dubbed "the next best thing to being at the match". No bad thing, given the way it all ended. Fans were turned away by security staff who claimed that the event was over at 5pm, despite Australia's final wicket falling 45 minutes later. Diary can now reveal that this was because staff simply lost count of the number of spectators and had to close it on health and safety grounds. Let's hope Npower do rather better at keeping count of energy bills.

Games Review: Cake Mania: In the Mix!

Wii, Majesco, £19.99

Minor British Institutions: Stottie cake

By Sean O'Grady

Fairy cakes

Makes 25 small cakes

Album: Fol Chen, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made (Asthmatic Kitty)

"We are cryptic and joyful and we would like you to dance," claim the enigmatic Fol Chen, likening themselves to the mysterious black monolith on the cover of Zep's Presence – a complete red herring as regards the group's musical approach, which favours synths and strings rather than rock and riffs.

A touch of frosting: How Britain became smitten with American cupcakes

Mrs Beeton would be turning in her grave. Her sensible muffins, crumpets and tea cakes and loaves studded with dates and raisins have been staple bakery favourites since 1861, when her seminal Book of Household Management began teaching Britons how to live "economically, tastefully and well". A century and a half later, these pantry treats are being overlooked in favour of doorstop-sized cupcakes in lurid shades of pink, green and red, crowned with inch-thick smears of sugary frosting and sprinkled with chocolate vermicelli and enamel-cracking gold and silver dragees.

Album: Grand Duchy, Petits Fours (Cooking Vinyl)

Frank Black has always produced his best work when his more masculine tendencies are tempered by a feminine touch, and such proves the case on Petits Fours, on which he and his wife, Violet Clark, join forces as Grand Duchy. It was an alliance, if not of opposing forces, then of opposing attitudes. "She digs the Eighties," claims Black. "I had spent the latter part of the Eighties doing my part to destroy the Eighties." Yet the decade is the dominant touchstone for Petits Fours, with Clark's synth parts recalling The Human League in "Seeing Stars", and combining with Black's po-faced croon in the manner of Ultravox and Tubeway Army for "Black Suit", a perfect pastiche of the era's blend of style and alienation. Not that Frank comes too willingly along, slipping reassuringly into his Black Francis scream at points, and bashing out dirty buzzsaw guitar riffs with alacrity on tracks such as "Lovesick", which recalls "Brown Sugar", and "Long Song", which could be by The Killers. But his gentler side is responsible for some of the album's most engaging moments, notably the beautiful pop melody of "Ermesinde" and the seductive "Come On Over to My House", an invitation that includes the promise "I'll make you buckets of tea/Put your breath inside me".

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