Monday, 15 January 2018

The What Kate Baked...and Baby Guide to Returning to Work after Maternity Leave:

The dream: a glorious morning latte and read of the papers on the way to work. The reality: 'Gagh-we're-late-no-where-to-park-outside-nursery-have-I-remembered-everything-be-nice-to-your-brother' on repeat

To coincide with my return to work (and not just work, a new job at that) this week after a glorious, sleep deprived maternity leave with the second-born apple of my eye, I give you The What Kate Baked...and Baby Guide to Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

1. You will inevitably rock up with some type of baby bodily fluid on your neatly ironed work clothes. A snail-like trail of snot on your shoulder at best, the worst I will leave up to the imagination...

2. You may not have the latest office gossip, know the deli round the corner now does fancy-pants Veganuary Coconut Milk lattes but you do know the local leisure centre's softplay schedule backwards and do a mean Amanda Karmel Hidden Vegetable Sauce*

*NB: the kids always know. Of course they know you've tried to shoehorn about a zillion vegetables into a sauce. They just eat the pasta around it.

3. The week you are due to return to work you child will, of course, come down with chicken pox/forget how to sleep*/contract a perfectly harmless but highly contagious rash that means s/he can't possible go to nursery

* if you've been lucky enough to get one that does sleep in the first place that is.

4. You will have sleepless nights over the fact your sleep deprived baby brain will have forgotten absolutely every single aspect of your job... yet within seconds of walking through the door, it's as though you never gave birth to the light of your life and maternity leave never happened.

5. After dropping off the kids at childcare, you have a mild panic everytime you look in the rearview mirror and your child isn't there ... before you remember where they are. In a similar vein, you listen to your child's nursery rhymes CD the entire route to work before remembering you can now enjoy Radio 2/Clean Bandit's latest offering/a self-improvement mindfulness podcast

6. It slowly comes back to you that tea is supposed to be served hot, toilet trips are generally taken by oneself and biscuits don't need to be shared

But on a slightly less tongue-in-cheek note, for anyone returning to work soon, all the very best of luck, it will be hard, emotional leaving your little one and a bit of a juggle but it'll all be ok. At least that'd what I'm telling myself while I enjoy my last cold tea and singalong of Wheels on the Bus at rhymetime. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year: Baking Trends 2018!

Image result for happy new year 2018

Happy New Year!

With a brand new, shiny and sparkling 365 days ahead, it's high time to publish my traditional-trawl-through-the-interweb-for-vaguely-new baking trends! 

The fourth meal

According to Waitrose (my happy place), 'the fourth meal' is whereby people (who are these people?) try and squeeze a fourth meal into their day. Nought wrong with that. Especially if its a giant slab of chocolate cake.


Your local florist will be doing a little joyful skip at midnight tonight as flowers in food are (according to Mystic Meg*) a big trend for 2018. Roses, elderflower, violet and lavender will decorate and infuse everything from ice cream to puddings to cakes

*what on earth happened to Mystic Meg? *distracts self on wikipedia for ten whole minutes*

Pink toast

Ha- I love this one. In an attempt to reverse declining bread sales, M&S have developed some rather healthy funky bread, including beetroot (pink bread), courgette and red pepper. Conversations over lunchtime sarnies won't be the same again ('what on earth is wrong with your bread Keith?' etc etc)

Vegan desserts

With pinterest recording a 329% increase in searches for vegan desserts and veganism the 'fastest growing lifestyle movement' ditch the double cream and butter for 2018. You could even start today by joining the estimated 150,000 people for Veganuary


Tied in with the increased interest in vegan and plant based foods, herbs are apparently back (but where they went to in the first place?).

Cake for breakfast

Well, helllllooooo here's a trend I will happily welcome into my life in 2018. Apparently cake tastes better in the morning and 'provides more time to work off the indulgence'. Suddenly, 2018 isn't looking that bad after all...

Happy New Year y'all xx

Rudolph Cupcakes

This is the first year that the toddler has really 'got' Christmas. At 2.5 years, mainly through the medium of Peppa Pig's 'Christmas' book, Christmas is more than just eating lots of brightly coloured festive wrapping paper as it was last year (the year before she mostly slept through the big day whilst dressed in various 'My First Christmas' paraphenalia).

We've met Santa (twice; surprisingly he turns out to not be that busy this time of year), been required to redecorate the tree on several occasions, reiterated every morning that we only open ONE window on the advent calendar each day and firmly established that all she wants for Christmas is a pair of yellow trousers.

We've also been busy in the kitchen. In the toddler's Peppa Pig magazine there was a recipe for Rudolph cupcakes and I was instantly instructed 'MAMA MAKE!'. The toddler took on the role of executive chef, which mainly involved carefully studying my efforts to ensure they exactly replicated those in the magazine. To be honest, at best these look 'rustic', at worse, they look as though I consumed an entire vat of mulled wine before switching the oven on.

But hey, to completely misquote the best festive movie of all time (ahem, Love Actually) if you can't bake shoddy Rudolph cupcakes for your daughter at Christmas, when can you?

Merry Christmas all you lovely people.

Rudolph Cupcakes

Makes 12

For the cakes:
110g softened butter
110g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g self raising flour
1 tbsp milk

For the decoration:
100g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
24 giant white chocolate buttons
A dozen pretzels
12 mini digestive or jaffa cake biscuits
6 glace cherries, halved

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 12 hold muffin tin with paper cases
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the egg and stir in the vanilla
3. Fold in the flour with a large metal spoon. Add a little of the milk untila  dropping consistency is acheived
4. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, ensure each case is approximately half full
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Set aside to cool for ten minutes then remove from the tin and allow to completely cool on a wire rack
6. To make the chocolate icing: Melt the chocolate and double cream in a small pyrex bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until completely melted
7. After reserving 1 tbsp of icing, gently spoon the chocolate icing over each cupcake and allow to set.
8. Place two white chocolate buttons as eyes on each cupcake and stick the pretzels on as antlers. Place a mini digestive biscuits on each cupcake and using leftover chocolate icing, 'stick' a cherry red nose to each biscuit
9. Pipe a little of the chocolate icing on each white chocolate button as eyes

Baker's notes

  • Happy Christmas!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Spiced Chocolate Cake

My enormous apologies for the terrible photo; rather a lot of prosecco was consumed before any photos were taken!

There are just a million opportunities for satisfying a sweet tooth this time of year.

Advent calendar chocolates for breakfast? Tick. Free sample of stollen in the local supermarket? Sure. Mince pie for elevenses? Of course. Leftover coffee creams that no one wants in the office Roses tin? Gimmee. Mini chocolate logs for afternoon tea? Yes please.

So a fruit salad for dessert at this time of year simply won't do. Nope. Nada. No chance. When I offered to make a pudding for a big Christmas weekend away with friends Nigella came to the rescue. Well, not literally. Although it was the big snow weekend when all of society stopped so if Nigella had popped by with a 4x4 and a tow bar, she would have been most welcome.

This glorious Chocolate Spiced Christmas cake was a huge hit and a lovely straightforward recipe. The only change I made to the original recipe was to add plenty of sparkly gold stars (as I'm pretty sure the song went 'may your cakes be merry and bright').

Merry Christmas! x

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Christmas Dinner with Hello Fresh

I am quite convinced that there are two types of people who cook Christmas dinner:

Type 1:

- You'll have been one of the first to book your supermarket Christmas home delivery slot back in September
- You have every Christmas cookery book ever published (although the well-thumbed, gravy-splattered 'Delia's Christmas' remains, in your opinion, the one and only festive cookbook worth opening on the Big Day) and you'll have written a menu by October
- You will have made and frozen the cranberry sauce by November and begun clearing the fridge of much-needed, valuable space by the 1st December
- Your mastermind specialist subject is the art and science of the perfect roast potato
- Come Christmas, you occasionally experiment with goose but by popular demand, your turkey recipe is still voted your family's favourite. And that of all your neighbours who come to you each year, as your prowess in the kitchen on the 25th is known far and wide

In other words, you are THE master of cooking the Christmas dinner.

Type 2

- EH?! Who put you in charge of Christmas dinner?
- The dog has a better idea of how to cook brussel sprouts than you so
- There's a reason you always offer to do the washing up
- The closest you've come to making Christmas dinner is wearing this novelty hat to your Christmas work do

In other words, you haven't a jingle-belling clue.

But, fear not, Santa Hello Fresh has come to your aid with this marvellous recipe and timings guide for the biggest and best meal of the year (no pressure, none at all). Yep, this year, they've got your back, from cooking the perfect turkey to how not to overcook the sprouts, plus all the timings to ensure you're sat down in time for the Queen's Speech.

Merry Christmas!

Disclaimer: Hello Fresh sent me the Christmas timings guide and a classic box of meals as a thank you for publishing this post. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Baker's Christmas Wish-List

The perfect presents, from £1 to £100, for the baker in your life...

The Christmas Chronicles

No wish-list is complete without a festive recipe book and Nigel's Slater's brand spanking new Christmas Chronicles is top of mine. Currently half price at £13.99, Waterstones

The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories & 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter (Hardback)

Nordic Ware Pretty Presents Baking Tins

Every cake wants to be the best of the bundt and with these cute little bundt tin presents you'll be giving a present within a present. Nice. £35.99, Harts of Stur

                                       Nordic Ware Pretty Presents Duet Pan

Nut Pastes

The almond paste can be added to fragipane, the hazelnut into bread dough to enrich the flavour and the pistachio paste can provide a taste-tastic base for ice cream. £18.95, Sous Chef


Biscuit Tree Decorations

So a bourbon biscuit hanging from your Christmas tree may not be as festive as say, a traditional snowman or robin, but for the biscuit lover, these quirky decorations are sure to be a hit. Just make sure you don't dip them into your tea after too many glasses of mulled wine, obvs. £15, Trouva


Star Rolling Pin

For star bakers, this embossed star rolling pin will add a certain star quality to your biscuits, pies and pastries. £15, John Lewis
Buy John Lewis Acacia Wood Star Rolling Pin Online at
Gingerbread House Kit

For the budding baker in your life, this sweet little Gingerbread House Kit requires not a single battery and is therefore a great stocking filler. £6.25, Waitrose 

Waitrose Gingerbread House Kit
Brownie Subscription

Fancy giving the gift of the best brownies ever without switching the oven on? How about a six month subscription box of Gower Cottage Brownies, declared by BBC Good Food Magazine to be the 'best brownies we have ever tasted'. It's the gift that keeps giving... well, until June that is. £97.99, Gower Cottage Brownies

Gower Cottage Brownies (6 Month Subscription) + Free Gift

Superhero cake toppers

.... and KABOOM, to finish off this Dear Santa list are these POW-fect superhero cake toppers. WHAM-derful as they sang Last Christmas. £1.29, Lakeland

                                       Cake Star Superhero Sugar Pipings alt image 1
Happy Christmas xx

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Marbled Coffee Loaf Cake


BFF of exhausted, sleep deprived parents, giver of (some) motivation every Monday morning and a rather delicious flavour for a loaf cake. Coffee cake is the homely staple of the village hall bake sale, an easy-pips cake that combines a light fluffy sponge with a bittersweet hit of caffeine. Although let's be honest, you'd probably have to eat the ENTIRE thing to have the equivalent caffeine hit of a triple espresso (don't put it past me though- I've a teething baby and a toddler who loves 5.30am).

It's even Nigel Slater's choice for his last meal on earth. And if it's good enough for Nige, well, it's certainly good enough for me.

Marbled Coffee Loaf Cake

For the cake:
225g softened butter
225g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsps instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tbsp boiled water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:
100g softened butter
200g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp instant espresso coffee powder mixed with 1 tbsp boiled water

To decorate: chocolate coffee beans

1. Heat the oven to 180C/170C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
2. Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and flour for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
3. Divide the mixture between two large bowls, lightly stirring in the espresso into one of the mixtures and the vanilla into the other
4. Alternatively dollop a large spoonful of each mixture into the tin to create the marbled effect. Once complete, tap the tin on the work surface to remove any air bubbles and swirl a skewer into the mixture to further add to the marbled effect
5. Bake for 45 min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool
6. To make the icing: beat the butter, icing sugar and coffee powder until combined. Spread over the cooled cake and decorate with the coffee beans

Baker's notes...

  • Is it just me or does eating a slice of coffee cake with a cup of tea as I am doing right now feel rather wrong... but slightly audacious?
  • The traditional decoration on a coffee cake would be a handful of walnuts and Felicity Cloake advocates toasting them to bring out their flavour