Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Christmas!


With just three days to go until the Big Ho Ho Ho, we're heading off to a little cottage, aptly called "Christmas Cottage" (no, really) for a few days of festive fun.

Which just leaves me to wish you all a very, very Happy Christmas with my Christmas Cake offering, based, as always, on Delia's classic recipe.



A very Merry Christmas to you all!

Kate x

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas Baking: Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes


There are approximately eleven days, fifteen hours, nine minutes and twenty eight seconds until Christmas Day.

That sentence will either fill you with a cold-sweated, panicked dread or result in a excitable yelp of 'Ding Dong!' followed by 'Merrily on High' possibly accompanied by a dance of pure, unadulterated child-like joy.

I'm firmly in the latter camp- as evidenced by my rather festive-fueled next seven days. This week I'm attending two work Christmas 'dos', two Carol services, one Christmas market, one Christmas lunch, one showing of 'It's a Wonderful Life', buying the very last of the presents, eating approximately twelve Mince Pies and fourteen satsumas, finishing off another seven days worth of advent calendar without sharing any with my husband and decorating one Christmas Cake (design yet to be confirmed; please suggest any answers on the back of a postcard Christmas Card).

And definitely tucking into one or two of these festive little cupcakes, inspired by a favourite warming drink available in most high street coffee shops this time of year:


Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
175g unsalted butter
175g soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
2 tsps ground ginger
0.5tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp of milk, if needed

For the frosting:

150g icing sugar
75g softened butter
2 tsp instant coffee granules mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water
Edible glitter and crystallised ginger to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Prepare the baking tray with twelve cupcake cases
2. To make the cupcakes: cream together the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a tbsp of flour if the mixture begins to curdle.
3. Sift in the flour and spices and fold together. Add the milk if needed to ensure a 'dropping' consistency'
4. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and risen. Set aside on a cooling rack to cool
5. To make the icing: Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and beat in the butter and coffee. Pipe over the cooled cupcakes and decorate with a little golden shimmer and crystallised ginger

Baker's notes...

  • I added a little extra Christmasssy sparkle to the top of the cupcakes with some gold shimmer from Waitrose
  • Yep, you read it right, there is 2 tsps of ground ginger in the recipe- to ensure the flavour is really enjoyed
  • The BBC have a lovely recipe for a salted caramel icing to add to their gingerbread cupcake recipe


    Tuesday, 9 December 2014

    Save The Children Christmas Jumper Day: Gingerbread Jumper Biscuits


    At this time of year, 95% of the time you'll find me (greedily) indulging in my eighth mince pie of the day, warming up another (enormous) vat of mulled wine and singing along (badly) to 'Good King Wencesles'. All the while dressed in a Christmas jumper, my uniform every December.

    And this year there's an even better excuse to wear your favourite Christmas Jumper: Save the Children are calling on everyone to 'Make the World Better With a Sweater'. This Friday, 12th December 2014, don your snazziest,  festive jumper and spread the jumper joy. 


    Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day is now in its third year and, thanks to fantastic supporters popping on their pullovers up and down the nation, they've raised more than £1.6 million to date. They're asking grown-ups for a suggested donation of £2 and schools and children for £1. The money raised will help save lives; just £2 could pay for potentially life-saving antibiotics to treat three babies with infections.


    Jumper in the wash? Get creative: Save The Children asked if I'd donate a jumper recipe and you'll find the Gingerbread Biscuit Jumper recipe right here. Other great ideas include knitting mini Christmas jumper bunting and crafting Christmas jumper cards

                                                        

    Please do wear a woolly or bake a jumper biscuit and spread the jumper joy this December, all the while raising vital funds for a very important charity. Happy baking!

    Many thanks,

    Kate x

    Thursday, 4 December 2014

    Christmas Baking: Festive Almond, Orange and Pistachio Biscotti



    A couple of weeks back I was invited by Argos to film a few fun, family friendly and fabulously tasty Christmas recipes. 




    The third and final in the series are these Festive Almond, Orange and Pistachio Biscotti. The perfect festive foodie gift for all those who share my sweet tooth!

    Festive Almond, Orange and Pistachio Biscotti

    200g plain flour
    50g ground almonds
    2 level tsp baking powder
    2 tsp mixed spice
    150g caster sugar 
    Zest of 1 orange
    2 eggs, beaten
    50g flaked almonds
    50g shelled pistachios
    50g candied orange peel

    1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
    2. Put the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, spice and sugar in a large bowl and mix together. Stir in the zest and beaten eggs and, using your hands, bring the dough together. Knead the dough until well combined- it will initially appear very dry but will soon combine together. Work in the almonds, pistachios and peel.
    3. Divide the dough into two and roll each ball into a long sausage shape. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and firm to touch. Remove from the oven and, after a few minutes, once cool enough to handle, cut the dough into 1 cm biscuits, on the diagonal. 
    4. Turn the oven down to 140C/120Cfan/Gas Mark 1. Lay the biscuits flat and bake for a further fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the biscuits over and bake for another 15 minutes. The biscuits will be golden and dry. 
    5. Once cooled completely, store in an airtight box for up to a month


    These videos were produced in association with Argos. Many of the equipment used on-set can be found at Argos, including a range of electric cookers, including integrated appliances, the Dualit toaster and even the cheery apron.

    This post is in collaboration with Argos. 

    Tuesday, 2 December 2014

    Christmas Baking: Christmas Tree Chocolate Brownies


    A couple of weeks back I was invited by Argos to film a few fun, family friendly and fabulously tasty Christmas recipes. 

    The second in the series are these Christmas Tree Chocolate Brownies

    Chocolate Brownie Christmas Trees

    For the Brownie Trees:
    100g unsalted butter
    150g dark chocolate
    100g caster sugar
    150g dark muscovado sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    100g plain flour
    30g cocoa powder
    0.5tsp baking powder

    To decorate:
    100g icing sugar, sifted
    Few drops of green food colouring
    Selection of candy decorations
    12 Candy canes

    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm round tin with baking parchment
    2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring regularly
    3. Whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy. Add the sugars and whisk until the mixture thickens and the sugars have dissolved. Fold in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract
    4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and fold until the mixture is smooth
    5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. There should be a light, springy crust on top but avoid overcooking; the centre should remain gooey. Once cooled, cut into eight slices/ triangles to form the Christmas Trees
    6. Sift the icing sugar with enough water and a few drops of food colouring to create a thin paste. Pipe or spoon across the cakes. Sprinkle with the candy decorations and insert a candy cane into each ‘tree’ to form a trunk

    Happy festive baking!

    The videos were produced in association with Argos. The equipment used on-set can be found at Argos: Dualit toasters, spacious larder fridgesbuilt-in integrated appliances like these practical and easy-to-access ovens.

    This post was produced in association with Argos

    Monday, 24 November 2014

    Chocolate Christmas Pudding Biscuits for Waitrose #bakeitforward


    It's not too early to start Christmas baking is it? No? You're sure? Good. Tis the season to be jolly merrily baking as the carolers, I'm quite certain, will soon start caroling. 

    I reckon as soon as the Christmas adverts have become water-cooler discussions, work Christmas do dates have been set and school assemblies are full of Nativity auditions then my festive biscuit cutters can be dusted down. 

    Talking of Christmas adverts, one of my favourite (well, it is baking themed) is the Waitrose ad, which follows the story of Ellie, a school girl baking gingerbread for her school fete. As part of the campaign, Waitrose are calling on budding bakers across the UK to bake something sweet to share with others during this season of goodwill. To take part bake something special for a friend, share your photos using the #BakeItForward hashtag and nominate them to do the same. There is lots of great baking inspiration and festive recipes on the Waitrose website. Every day Waitrose will surprising people involved with festive treats, including hampers and bottles of champagne.


    As part of #bakeitforward Waitrose invited me to bake something special. As if I need an excuse to bake some Christmassy treats! I baked these warmly spiced Christmas Pudding biscuits, studded with boozy dried fruit and covered in indulgent dark chocolate for my sister, who loves Christmas just as much as I do!


    Chocolate Christmas Pudding Biscuits

    2 tsps brandy 
    50g sultanas
    50g dried cranberries
    50g mixed peel
    125g melted butter 
    125g light brown soft sugar
    1 large egg
    225g plain flour
    1 tsp mixed spice
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    Zest of 1 lemon
    Zest of 1 orange
    50g blanched almonds, roughly chopped

    150g dark chocolate, melted
    100g ready to roll white icing
    50g ready to roll green icing
    25g ready to roll red icing

    1. Put the sultanas, cranberries and mixed peel in a bowl with the brandy. Stir, cover with cling film and put in the fridge to steep overnight*. When ready to use, strain off any remaining liquid. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F. Grease and line two baking trays with baking paper
    2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until combined
    3. Fold in the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda until a dough forms, stir in the dried fruit, zests and almonds
    4. Using a tablespoon drop rounded balls of dough onto the baking sheets, ensuring each cookie is well spaced as apart. There is no need to flatten the dough
    5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden 
    6. Once cooled, dip into the melted chocolate and place aside to set. 
    7. Use a daisy biscuit cutter to cut out the 'Christmas Pudding brandy cream' decoration from the white icing. Using a small holly cutter, cut two holly leaves for each biscuit. Form two small berries out of the red icing for each biscuit. Continue, until all are decorated.

    Happy baking! 

    Baker's notes...

    • * This is step is optional but hey, it is Christmas...
    • You can use a combination of various dried fruits and nuts, simply raid your storecupboard or use any ingredients left over from Stir Up Sunday
    • With thanks to Waitrose, who sent me a bundle of baking goodies and vouchers to partake in and promote #bakeitforward 

    Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Christmas Baking: Mini Chocolate Christmas Pudding Bites



    A couple of weeks back I was invited by Argos to film a few fun, family friendly and fabulously tasty Christmas recipes. 

    The first in the series are these Mini Chocolate Christmas Pudding Bites. Perfect little after-dinner and party treats, they are also a very delicious way of using up any leftover Christmas Pudding this festive season.

    Mini Chocolate Christmas Pudding Bites Makes 10 


    For the bites:


    50g finely chopped dark chocolate

    175g cooled Christmas pudding
    1 tablespoon golden syrup 

    For the decoration:


    50g dark chocolate

    finely chopped 1 tsp vegetable fat e.g. ‘Trex’
    50g white ready to roll icing
    50g ready to roll red fondant icing
    50g ready to roll green fondant icing 

    1. Grease and line a baking sheet

    2. To make the bites: in a heatproof bowl suspended above a pan of simmering water gently melt the dark chocolate
    3. Crumble the cooled Christmas pudding into a large mixing bowl, add the golden syrup and stir to combine
    4. Pour in the melted dark chocolate and stir together

    5. Using a pair of disposable vinyl gloves roll small lumps of mixture into balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter and place on the prepared baking tray.
    6. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to firm for 20-30 minutes

    7. To decorate: in a heatproof bowl suspended above a pan of simmering water gently melt the dark chocolate together with the tablespoon of vegetable fat (this ensures a smooth dipping chocolate). Once melted, dip the firmed bites into the chocolate and place aside to set
    8. Using a small daisy flower cutter, cut out the ‘brandy sauce’ decoration, one per pudding bite. Place on top of each bite. Form three small ‘berries’ for each bite from the red fondant and two ‘holly leaves’ per bite from the green fondant and use to decorate.

    Happy festive baking!

    The videos were produced in association with Argos, who have a great range of larder fridges such as the one seen in this film. Pop back shortly for the second film in the series.


    This is a collaboration with Argos

    Sunday, 16 November 2014

    Upside Down Caramelised Pear, Chocolate and Almond Cake (Gluten-Free)


    As regular readers will know (hello Mum!) I'm rather partial to an upside down cake. Similar to a crumble cake, it saves fumbling and faffing with piping bags and ornate icings. A simple inversion of the cake tin (but do feel free to be as theatrical as you like; a 'ta-dah!' is optional) and you've a ready- decorated beautiful bake.

    This is a deliciously moist, moreish chocolatey cake with the caramelised pears adding a sweet, fruity twist.

    Wednesday, 12 November 2014

    My Top Ten Baking Store Cupboard Essentials

    1. Butter
    We'll start our list in the fridge. A key ingredient for most cakes and bakes (and also for liberally spreading over hot crumpets). 

    2. Eggs
    Eggs too are rather a staple for baking and are used to add structure, leavening and to bind ingredients together. Pretty vital then. 

    3. Sugar
    Caster...brown...light muscovado....golden caster...dark muscovado....soft...icing sugar. At this rate, half your store cupboard will be covered in sugar granules. Various sugars are used for various purposes, for example, you'll need caster sugar for a classic Victoria Sponge, dark muscovado for a festive fruit cake and soft brown sugar for gooey fudgey Brownies.


    Sunday, 2 November 2014

    Bonfire Night: Sticky Toffee Apple Buns

     
    Last night we made the epic journey right across the city to Blackheath to partake in one of my favourite evenings of the year: Bonfire Night. I spent most of my childhood terrified of fireworks; each November 5th would find me cowering, hands over my ears, frozen by the horrid loud noises.  I see my yearly pilgrimages south of the river as making up for all that lost time.



    As I 'ohhhhed' and 'ahhhhhhed' through the display, the young boy behind me didn't quite share my enthusiasm. He provided some very entertaining commentary: 'Daddy, when are they going to do the big ones?....Disney ones were better.... Daddddyyy, these are rubbish!'

    His somewhat exasperated Father persuaded him to stay put with promises of candy floss and toffee apples. But as the fireworks reached their magnificent crescendo, this clearly wasn't an attractive enough bribe: 'Daddddddyyy! I've had enough! I want to go home! I prefer Halloween!'.

    What? 

    If it was socially acceptable to berate small boys whom you've not met before then I would have told him that the magic and wonder of fireworks and bonfires is infinity better than the ridiculous, over-commercialized, scare-fest that is Halloween. 

    (The only slight advantage of Halloween is that you may get a few more miniature sized chocolates, if you're aged around seven, dressed up as a ghoul and carrying a treat bucket).

    For those of us who do prefer Bonfire Night, here's a lovely treat of a bun perfect to munch on while admiring the illuminated skies.


    Bonfire Night: Sticky Toffee Apple Buns 

    For the dough:

    450g strong white bread flour
    7g fast action yeast
    50g light brown soft sugar
    150ml warm full fat milk
    1 beaten egg
    50g unsalted melted butter

    For the filling:
    30g melted butter
    1 tbsp mixed spice
    30g soft brown sugar
    75g sultanas
    2 small eating apples, cored and roughly chopped

    1 egg white

    For the topping:
    50g toffee
    Dash of milk

    1. Put the flour, yeast, sugar with 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl and mix well. Pour in the milk with 50ml warm water, the egg and butter and mix to form a dough, initially with a wooden spoon then with your hands.
    2. Turn out the dough onto a worksurface, resisting the temptation to add more flour- this is a wet, sticky dough! Knead the dough until smooth and springy. Place in a lightly greased large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise until doubled in size in a warm place
    3. Grease a 23cm round baking tin. Knock back the dough and turn out onto the work surface. Roll out into a large rectangle and brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the spice, sultanas and apple.
    4. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Tightly roll up the dough, longest side first. Cut into 8-10 pinwheels and tightly place, cut side up, in the prepared tin. Set aside to prove in a warm place until double in size. Brush with the egg white just prior to placing in the oven.5. Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4 to bake for a further ten minutes or until golden brown.
    6. To make the toffee topping: melt the toffees with a dash of milk in a small pan over a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Once melted, drizzle over the buns

    Baker's notes...
    • In last month's Waitrose Magazine, they had a lovely recipe for Autumn Chelsea Buns, made with ginger syrup and dates.
    • Without doubt these are best served warm, fresh from the oven
    • For other Bonfire inspired sweet treats, visit the recipe index


    Friday, 24 October 2014

    Ginger and Lemon Witches Hat Halloween Cake


    This recipe may be a tad early but I'm not the only one getting enthused for Halloween already. Supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of absurdly large pumpkins (no wonder there's a Pumpkin crisis), Disney are cashing in and adverts on bus stops are promoting the latest horror films such as 'Ouija' and 'Wrong Turn 6: The Last Resort'.*

    I normally wait out Halloween happily watching the Strictly Come Dancing special, 'treating' myself to a gigantic bar of chocolate while avoiding Buffy-True-Blood-Addams Family mega-marathons on obscure digital channels. But invited to participate in the Unilever Kitchen Halloween Challenge (#UnileverHalloween), it was time for some spookalicious baking. And ta-dah! Here's my effort, a Ginger and Lemon Witches Hat Halloween Cake (try saying that while bobbing an apple or two).

    *Genuinely a film released this year. You'd have thought by now, with a title such as that, the main characters might have learnt something from the last five versions? Like, always bring a Sat Nav on long journeys?

    Photography 'special effects' for Halloween; normal service to resume for Bonfire Night

    Ginger and Lemon Witches Hat Halloween Cake

    For the cake:
    125g Flora Buttery
    200g treacle
    150ml milk
    125g soft brown sugar
    225g plain flour
    2 tsps ground ginger
    0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    2 large eggs, beaten

    For the decoration:
    Zest of 1 lemon
    100g icing sugar
    100g black fondant
    Hundreds and thousands

    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Butter a 8 inch square tin and line with baking parchment
    2. Place the Flora, treacle, milk and sugar into a pan and very gently melt together. stirring occasionally. As soon as it has melted, remove from the heat and allow to begin to cool.
    3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, spice and bicarbonate of soda. Add in the treacle-butter mixture and fold together. Fold in the eggs and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes until firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean
    4. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes then turn out to a cooling rack to cool completely
    5. To make the icing: sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, add the lemon juice and zest and a little water to make a runny 'water' icing. Spread over the cooled cake. Slice the cake into a witches hat shape. Decorate the bat shapes made from the black fondant and a bat cookie cutter. Use any leftover fondant to create a border around your cake. Finally, decorate with the hundreds and thousands.

    Baker's notes...

    • Prefer a sticky ginger cake? Wrap the cooled cake in parchment paper and a layer of foil for a couple of days, then decorate
    • The cake can easily be frozen prior to decorating and kept in the freezer for up to three months
    • Last year I made these Spooky Skeleton Biscuits, the previous year these Spider Cakes and before that these Creepy Crawly Cupcakes
    • Cheers to Unilever for sending over a hamper of ingredients to inspire Halloween baking
    • How are you celebrating Halloween?

    Thursday, 16 October 2014

    Honey, Ginger and Beer Cake


    We've just returned from a glorious weeks holiday in Greece. 




    I write that with such longing for the warmth tickling our skin, the azure-blue skies, the hot sun and the swimming in the clearest of seas. As we swam, bathed in the sun or drank very quaffable local wine into the late, balmy evenings we (yes, rather nauseatingly) kept reminding ourselves 'This is October!...Can you believe we're in October?'.


    Sunday, 5 October 2014

    Bloomin' Brilliant Brownie Cake



    I'm going out on a bit of a limb here by saying this is the most decadent, chocolately cake you're likely to taste this year. It is one hundred percent gooey, fudgy, brownie brilliance. The far more civilised equivalent of dunking your entire head, mouth wide open into one of those chocolate fountains you find at fancy functions. A forkful is on par with a supermarket sweep of the finest artisan Parisian chocolaterie. It would score 'brownie' points when served at the end of any dinner party and, forget a shot of espresso, this cake is the best mid-afternoon pick-me-up in town.

    Have I sufficiently sold it to you yet?


    Sunday, 28 September 2014

    Nutty Blackberry and Apple Cake



    Last weekend I partook in my biannual Spring/Autumn clean. This usually involves playing loud, cheery music to housework dance around to, a large bottle of bleach wine, attempting to file bin six months of paperwork and carting several bags of clothes to the local charity shops. Although the clear out of my summer wardrobe was rather premature this year; as I write this it's a balmy 23C and the summer is stubbornly refusing to fade into autumn. 

    Buoyed up with a very rarely seen enthusiasm for a big clear out I turned my attention to our kitchen store cupboards and my various boxes and tins of baking paraphernalia. In long forgotten boxes I found dusty equipment from when I went through a bit of cake pop phase, enough cupcake cases to open an online emporium and more decorative sprinkles and sparkles than an extra celebratory episode of Strictly Come Dancing. If randomly and excessively decorated cakes and bakes start appearing on What Kate Baked in the near future you know for why. 

    As a reward, a bit of a treat and to encourage Autumn along** I baked this very seasonal cake. Albeit, in my flip flops. A fluffy, light sponge is dotted with juicy blackberries and sweet British apples with a crunchy nutty topping. 

    ** I've a lot of lovely new recipes I'm keen to try out; fluorescent, floral sprinkles optional. 


    Nutty Blackberry and Apple Cake

    175g butter, softened
    175g golden caster sugar
    2 large eggs, beaten
    125g Self raising flour
    50g ground almonds
    1 tsp cinnamon
    2 eating apples
    150g blackberries
    20g soft brown sugar
    50g toasted almond flakes
    50g toasted chopped hazelnuts


    1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line an 8 inch loose bottomed round cake tin. Beat together the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. 
    2. Gradually add in the eggs, adding a spoonful of flour if the mixture is curdling
    3. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. 
    4. Stir through two thirds of the apples and all of the blackberries. Scrape into the prepared tin and dot the remainder of the apples on the top and sprinkle over the brown sugar
    5. Bake for 50-55 min or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and scatter over the toasted nuts


    Baker's notes...

    • I used hazelnuts and almonds as these were the half packs I unearthed during the Big Clean Out. Any combination of nuts would taste delicious 
    • I'd love to say these blackberries were foraged from a beautiful hedgerow but I'd be lying; they were foraged in Waitrose.






    Thursday, 18 September 2014

    Salted Caramel Pecan Kouign Amann with Stork


    Kouign what ... I hear you say?

    Unless of course you were glued to your telly screen last night with this week's episode of The Great British Bake Off, you would be forgiven for thinking the Kouign Amann was the name of a piece of flat pack furniture from IKEA. But no. As the Bake Off contestants discovered, a Kouign Amann is a delectably decadent buttery, pastry cake from the Breton region of France. Yes, there is a lot to like about this bake. 


    Now normally each Wednesday night will find me, feet up, cuppa and cake to hand, captivated by Mel-n-Sue's innuendos, Paul's judgments and Mary's fashion choices. Oh, and the baking 'course. But this week I baked-along-a-bake-off with Stork as I tried to recreate the technical challenge, the Kouign Amann.

    Monday, 8 September 2014

    Sticky Plum and Ginger Upside Down Cake


    For some people the end of the summer is marked with prepping the kids for a return to school, brand new squeaky, shiny shoes and the latest Disney lunch boxes in tow. For others, it's Saturday evenings on the sofa with Strictly and X-Factor as the nights draw in. And for me, it's delving into the deepest recesses of our cupboards for darker sugars and warming spices, ingredients that herald a return to Autumnal baking. The dregs of the summer fruits, the tart raspberries and tasteless strawberries, are finally put aside in favour of juicy plums, ripe blackberries, dusty blue sloes and crunchy British apples. Recipes for summery, frozen puds discarded for the next ten months as taste buds turn to wholesome, comforting cakes and bakes.  

    Monday, 25 August 2014

    Blueberry and Coconut Crunch Cake


    I don't half love the August bank holiday. It's the grown-up equivalent of six glorious weeks of school holidays as a child. Except, obviously, far shorter, with fewer Screwball ice creams, Wagon Wheels and sandy tuna paste Mighty White sandwiches.

    With the exception of my husband forgetting to switch off his usual Monday morning work alarm which merrily rang out at 6.20am this morning (we had to have very strong words), today has been a day of doing nothing. I've read the paper, flicked through a few recipe books, drank endless cups of tea. Oh, and baked this. Marvellous.

    Wednesday, 20 August 2014

    'Purple Pansies' at The Peggy Porschen Academy


    Not unlike a small child seeking your approval and praise after learning a brand new skill for the first time, I'd like to present these Mini Violet Chocolate Pansy Cakes.


    To utterly misquote Thomas Edison, these beautifully elegant little chocolate cakes were 15% perspiration and 85% terrific tuition from Penelope, Masterclass Tutor at the Peggy Porschen Academy. I was invited to join one of the new floral classes, 'Purple Pansies' hosted by the Academy in celebration of the Peggy's new book 'Cakes in Bloom'.

    Monday, 11 August 2014

    Peaches, Cream, Almond, Honey and Crumble




    It's been a great week for my sweet tooth. 

    A large supermarket chain had my favourite Green and Blacks chocolate half price (cue unashamed whooping and greedy purchasing). The Great British Bake Off is back and, with it, a new spin off show and the inevitable rise in sales of featured baking gizmos and gadgets. That'll be the non-stick rounded fluted tin used in the Mary Berry's Cherry Cake Technical Challenge rather than Stormin' Norman's Swiss Roll skateboard presentation platter.

    Monday, 4 August 2014

    Great British Bake Off 2014

     Image courtesy of BBC/Love Productions

    Cancel all plans, clear your diaries, turn off your phones, in just over 72 hours The Great British Bake Off is back!

    The BBC has been teasing us with trailers over recent weeks, including, my favourite, The One Where Mary Berry Cartwheels Across The Lawn. Forget cooking; hand that woman a Commonwealth Gymnastics Gold Medal.

    But what to expect from Series Five?



    Well, #GBBO has a brand sparkling new home on BBC1. And a brand new spin-off show, An Extra Slice, hosted by the brilliant Jo Brand, who, in one of my favourite ever Bake Off moments, elected to perch her derriere on several packs of butter to bring them to room temperature.

    The contestants range from the oldest ever to the youngest ever with a speech therapist, business consultant, fashion designer and construction engineer in the middle. Then there's the contestant who became a WI judge at the tender age of twenty, the contestant who invented a croissant-pretzel mash up (the cross-zel?) and the contestant who doesn't bother weighing her ingredients. We haven't got long to imagine the look of probable horror on Mary Berry's face when she discovered that little nugget.


     Image courtesy of BBC/Love Productions

    After last year's 'bitterness and bile', the Raymond rows and social media storm over Ruby's tears, this series promises to be cuddlier, softer and less competitive. Does that mean no more Squirrel Nuts or custard-gate? Thank goodness Mel and Sue are still bouncing around the great white tent providing their constant cheeky flow of baking puns. Here's a sneaky peak as they fight over a gigantic bowl of chocolate mousse from the very first episode.

    Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Cherry Chocolate Fondants


    Remember when all it took to win a television cookery show such as MasterChef was an unburnt scallop, a thin slice of black pudding and a decadent chocolate fondant? The glory days of twitter hashtags such as #ScallopWatch and 5 million viewers watching with bated breath to see if the centre of a fondant was appropriately, gloriously, gooey?



    For the last five years, every time I've made a chocolate fondant I've envisaged a miniature Gregg Wallace on my shoulder simultaneously licking his lips while jovially repeating the one line he will forever be associated with: 'Cooking doesn't get tougher than this'. I've laid siege at the oven door, crossing fingers, toes and spatulas for a soft, molten middle and a risen sponge. I've wanted to play a recording of the sweaty-palm, racing-heart MasterChef Countdown music as I serve the puds (erm.... in my defence, Monday nights can be quite slow around these parts). 

    Saturday, 19 July 2014

    Raspberry and Yogurt Loaf Cake



    Raspberries are having the year of their lives. If they were sprinters, they'd be gloriously winning the Olympics in world record breaking time. 

    If they were musicians, they'd be celebrating Grammy award winning albums, platinum record sales and Chris Martin would be forced into spending his time touring burger joints rather than international stadiums with Coldplay. 

    If they were authors, JK Rowling's book sales would be left in tatters and the Harry Potter theme park, hit by downward spiralling attendances, would be torn down in favour of 'Raspberry World'*. 

    *Think M&M World, Leicester Square but pinker and more squishy. 

    Sunday, 13 July 2014

    Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough No Churn Ice Cream




    Despite writing a blog that is, quite frankly, sweeter than the inner most depths of a Haribo factory, I've yet to include an ice cream recipe. Partly I've been discouraged as we don't own a one of those unwieldy ice cream maker-machines, partly because we've only the teeniest of freezers and mostly because the corner shop five minutes away has yet to run out of Twisters.

    But then I read loads of great no-churn ice cream recipes, it got to hot to switch the oven on and we ate loads of frozen peas one night, freeing the teeny freezer for sweeter stuff.

    Thursday, 3 July 2014

    Konditor and Cook Cake School Review

    There is probably only one cake in the entire world that has been seen by an estimated 125 million television viewers. The Curly Whirly Cake from Konditor and Cook was arguably the standout star at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. But then of course a decadent dark chocolate sponge cake enveloped creamy vanilla frosting would be the leading light:

    Image courtesy of Konditor and Cook

    And one evening last week I popped along to the Konditor and Cook Cake School to learn all about the infamous Curly Whirly Cake. I'd been invited to the Introduction to Cake Decorating class, a two hour class packed full of brilliant tips and tricks to decorate biscuits and cakes, including the Curly Whirly. 

    We headed behind the scenes at the Borough Market branch, through a door marked 'Cake School', the confectionery equivalent of walking through the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Our fantasy land beyond held tempting trays of Konditor and Cook nibbles. I for one tucked into with an alarming greed and gusto; apologies to my fellow course mates who probably did not have the chance to sample the bite sized brownies, delicate Parmesan shortbreads and the perfectly layered noisette sponge cake.

    After we I had devoured the welcome snacks, Zera, Head Decorator at the branch, ably assisted by her colleague Alex began the class with an instruction to make a dozen mini parchment piping bags each. I'm not the most dexterous person at the best of times; this was like entering the world's most complex origami competition. But under Zera's expert and infinitely patient tutelage within a few minutes we'd all produced our piping bags:

                                            

    Once they were filled with a variety of bright Royal icings, Zera demonstrated how to write and pipe the icing. It was just as well my first efforts were on a practice board. My writing was so wobbly it was as though I'd spent the previous two hours in the local pub hell bent on devouring their entire gin supply.


    My wavy, childlike writing soon filled the board and it was time to progress to decorating biscuits. We were enthusiastically encouraged to decorate self-portraits and the faces of loved ones. Mine looked like the love child of Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart whilst my husband questioned his new orange beard when I presented him with his portrait later that evening:


    (I'd like to confirm the biscuits were utterly delicious and my husband doesn't look anything like his biscuit portait.)

    And then, then it was time to bring out the big gun: the undecorated Curly Whirly Cake. We all stood utterly transfixed by the gloriously perfect, naked cake, initially not daring to tarnish the smooth silky icing with wobbly lines and uneven decorating:

                              

    Eventually, inspired by Wimbledon I plumped for a strawberry decoration. I reasoned this was possibly more achievable that an iced image of Andy Murray Roger Federer fist-pumping his way to the final of the tennis. With Zera's invaluable assistance, this was my creation:



    The class was incredibly enjoyable, relaxed, and taught with huge enthusiasm and warmth. The skills and tips are eminently transferable to the home kitchen ... just as soon as I figure out how to make the piping bags without Zera's close supervision and reassurance! 

    If you’d like to visit Konditor & Cook there are four branches dotted across central London:

    Waterloo – 22 Cornwall Road, SE1 8TW
    Borough Market – 10 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
    Holborn – 46 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8LR
    The Gherkin – 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8BF

    And a full list of their brilliant Cake School classes can be found right here.

    PS: They've an awesome range of July 4th American Magic Cakes to celebrate today's Independence Day in store right now:

    Image courtesy of Konditor and Cook

    With many thanks to Konditor and Cook for inviting me along to the class and Cake School.