Take a break from the grey and bake


2012 is officially the colour of Grey. Floods and continual grey skies create the perfect reading opportunity for stuck indoors women in their millions to one by one drop like flies and seek comfort in the arms of the infamous Mr Grey. I can’t go anywhere without hearing constantly  ‘I’m spending the night with Christian’, ‘I got the last copy whoop whoop’ and my personal favourite ‘I wrestled the woman in Tesco’s for it and won’    Honestly all this grey has turned my female social media friends into whipping, drooling and silk scarf frenzied sex kittens.  As with all good things Ladies you have to take a break some time or bits start to fall off so walk away from Grey and Greyer, give your racing hearts and imaginations a rest. If you really have a need to tie yourself to things that’s fine just tie yourself to the food mixer or oven door and get it over with. You all have to eat sometime so join me in my top ten round-up of bakes over the year and I hear the naughty chocolate fudge sauce is good if that’s your sort of thing.

Number One – Strawberry Pimms Cake Pop Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

This is where it all began and I really enjoyed making these and I think at the time that was probably because at the beginning it did not matter if the cake I baked was wonky or imperfect as it got smooshed up with various fillings to create a mouthful of heaven. If you roll cake balls in meringue before dipping them in chocolate you have an Eton mess variation and perfect for when you need something ball shaped that isn’t salty.

Two – The mis-piped naughty meringue snowmen

My piping disaster (keep on reading to see more!)

See these were a bit of a baking disaster and most of you who have spoken to me over the year will have chuckled at these.  I was not the best at piping back then and figured that the little snowmen rather naughty looking tails would go down in the oven.  Hmmm I guess I was wrong with that one however they will star on this year’s Christmas cards!

Three – Pay Day Cakes  ‘The Macchiato’

The ‘Pay Day Cake’ idea began in March with the premise that you do not scrimp on ingredients but bake a cake that has four layers in a celebration for each week worked. This one is the Machiatto based on the coffee, vanilla and caramel drink at Starbucks. After this followed Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake, The Turkish Temptress and White Chocolate Mousse cake with a secret berry blast that will keep your admirers wondering how you did it? The final cake so far is triple chocolate mousse cake with chocolate covered strawberries – do I pick the longest names or what? What next a fifty shades of grey cake how would that work?

Sticky Toffee Cake

 FourVanilla Essence (DIY)

Homemade Vanilla Essence

A great gift to you or a baking friend – why not make a few at the same time.

This has to be on the list as it is the one ingredient I use in all of my bakes – simple to make, full of flavour and saves £££ and if you add lemonade to a shot of it you have a vanilla vodka spritzer – love the dual purpose nature! Comes with a humourous tale of baking meltdowns.

FiveMojito inspired Polenta Cake

Mojito polenta cake

Polenta cake – this is a dairy and gluten-free option you know you will be safe most places you need to take cake. Moist, tangy, easy to make and very portable with no fussy icing to worry about – bake it and job done and if you like it try the lemon and berry version.

SixJammie Dodger CheesecakesJammie Dodger Cheesecake

Perfect little pick me up with a creamy cheesecake, jamminess and biscuit all rolled into one. You would think a soft biscuit base wouldn’t work but it really does and cute too.  Comes with a tale about synchronicity.

Seven – Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Another dairy and gluten free cake (but you would never know) that is just as good as a Bakewell tart but far less hassle. I have a love of simple loaf cakes and my top tip is buy cake liners for your tins to save time from fiddly lining with baking paper. Why not try out Left over Banana, honeycomb and chocolate or Lemon and Blueberry.

EightNaughty Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Just perfect for pouring over ice-cream sundaes, traybakes, puddings or whatever else takes your fancy but I don’t want to know about it thank you very much. Keeps in a jar in the fridge and then just heat and pour over your choosen dessert or body parts includes cute labels as well so you can give it as a gift but please don’t tie the labels to body parts as that would just be wrong.

Nine – Palmiers, Berries and Macaron Ice-Cream

Juicy berry Palmiers with ice-cream oozing with berries and crushed macarons which is the perfect use for them if they have gone hideously wrong as mine do. Accompanied by a funny story of blackberry picking disasters and walking like John Wayne but without needing Mr Grey to do that for me.

TenSprinkle Spiral Cookies

Made for Valentines day with love and such fun to hang on the side of cups (if you cleverly cut them as soon as you take them out of the oven before they begin to harden. Any colour or flavour would work with these and they freeze well so you can make ahead and bake when needed. I keep a frozen cookie roll in my freezer which also serves as a back up weapon to ward off any intruders. Please don’t get any ideas of putting cookie rolls anywhere they shouldn’t go as that would be a hard one to explain at the NHS walk in centre.

Hope you enjoyed my round-up and here’s to more bakes ahead. As for Mr Gey I’m avoiding you for the moment as my kitchen is my own version of a ‘red room of pain’ where I’m often found weeping in dispair, involunatrily tied up in piping bags or yelling with sheer baked ecstacy all without having read the trilogy.  Apparently there is expected to be a 50 shades baby boom which will lead to some interesting questions for those parents in the next decade.  I can imagine their conversations now, ‘Mum, how was I concieved?’ and the reply ‘Well Your Dad tied me to the Kitchenaid and I spanked him with the beater attachment whilst balancing a cupcake on my head’ oh dear Mr Grey what you got us into?

Thanks to all who have supported me, commented, followed and the extra pounds my close friends and family have endured so far in my little journey. What was your favourite?

Love to all x Up next gooey popcorn bars traybake

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Lushious Lemon and Blueberry Loaf Cake


Luscious Lemon and Blueberry Cake screams out to you ‘come on spring already’ as I have had enough of snow and woolly jumpers. This cake is so easy to make and could easily be glammed up with a lemon icing or crunchy lemon topping for a special tea and decorated with candied lemon.

The Tale of the Sceret World of Swotchers
It is cold this week and when the Met Office predict snow the entire country will grind to a halt and children take on a new obsession that I call swotching. Swotching is the art of ‘snow watching’ and makes British school children (and adults you know who you are) twitch the curtains all night waiting and praying for snow which is high enough up the kerb to warrant a day off. At school I am convinced there is a hidden inner circle of swotchers (aka teachers who live locally who have been entrusted to be in the secret circle of school swotchers). This elite crew (they do exist – trust me!) have been tasked with a mighty school ruler (this is my imagination) and school issued wellingtons to bravely enter the snow on behalf of the school and measure the depth to determine whether it is safe or not for us all to venture out. So far on my swotchers quest I have discovered there are three swotchers at our School who dutifully report the weather conditions to the Head so he can use this as well as other data to make an informed choice.

According to my observations over the last eight years if the snow is kerb level or over – School is called off and if it is below – off to School you go. The secret world of swotchers can also be seen on twitter where they (not so secretly) post under the hashtag #snowarmageddon or #snow. I am sure each snowflake has it’s own tweet by a secret swotcher somewhere. This story of the snowy underworld captivates my students who look at me open-mouthed and you can see their brains ticking over as they try to work out who the secret swotchers are. Then again they could be wondering how mad their teacher is – you never can be sure?

I guess the other thing that makes me chuckle about snow is the Met Office warnings – they amuse me so much as they just the epitomy of Britishness. I interpret them as:

BE AWARE = A snow flake may fall somewhere (OMG) you should pack cold weatehr gear just in case.
BE PREPARED = Panic buy bread, trusted rock salt, and prepare the sleighs for safe transport to work and school. Put the kettle on and under all circumstances remain calm and twitch those curtains!
TAKE ACTION = Run for your life, lock the doors and windows and do not come out as the white stuff is about to land. This may turn you into an ice statue if you step outside the front door for even a second.

Personally in times of panic and despair I bake and this was one of the results. In fact I was so engrossed I never noticed the snow until it was time to take my son out and lo and behold SNOW! I was so excited I rushed to get my snow boots which I brought last year and put them on for the first time. I stepped outside the front door like a snow warrior invincible to the white powdery stuff as these boots were made for walking. A few bounces and skips later I was off. I am known in the street for being the mad woman that will randomly get up at 6 am when it has snowed just to be the first one to walk on it. Last year I was found at 7am doing snow angels in the middle of the street next to life size snowman – that’s normal isn’t it?

The best thing about this snowy day was the lovely fresh cake and coffee when I got home to warm me up. My cake is destined for lunch boxes and therefore I choose not to ice my cake as it would not have withstood the day without becoming a mangled mush of icing and cake.

Recipe adapted from here (Good Food)

Ingredients
175g softened butter
100ml greek yoghurt
3tbsp of lemon curd
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
200g self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
90g blueberries (I used frozen)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 160 / 140 fan / Gas 3
2. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
3. Place butter, yoghurt, vanilla extract, lemon curd, lemon zest, eggs , flour and caster sugar into a mixing bowl and mix with a hand whisk or in stand mixer until the mixture is just combined.
4. Add half of the mixture to the lined tin
5. Sprinkle over half the blueberries
6. Repeat with the remaining cake mixture and blueberries
7. Place in the oven for 1hr 10mins – 1 hr 15 mins until the cake is springy and a cake tester or skewer comes out clean.

I am still not sure why you do the blueberries in two halves as they always end up at the bottom!

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This cake is to be entered into the Alphabakes competition being hosted by the more than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes. The host this month is a complete baking addict and runs a fantastic blog with so many recipes and good ideas I just can’t keep up with her! Wish me luck!