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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Raspberry Bakewell Loaf Cake (Gluten and Dairy Free)


Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Finally I made myself a cake that is dairy free and gluten free who knows next time it will be cake without actually having cake in it? I have a guilty secret to share I am having a bit of a love affair with raspberries at the moment and I can’t wait until raspberries come into season but for now frozen will do.

Raspberries suit this moist cake beautifully and make me think of summer (sigh) oh how I miss it. It’s not right to still be wearing jumpers in May and with a looming maiden camping voyage in the ‘so nearly finished after two god damn years’ VW camper and when I look out the window at the rain and realise with dispair that it’s certainly not looking promising. At least the cake to take looks like a slice of summer.

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

When we brought the van to experience retro style family holidays I did not quite have in mind rain, men and smelly feet. I’ll admit being a fair weather camper and whilst some people stuck in a middle of a field somewhere may pine for the lack of television, toilets, proper showers or the internet but no not me I will pine for the loss of my oven. Although I did spot a mini electric one for £39 in Lakeleand that plugs in and sadly I am very tempted.

Coming on the trip is Ron and Ronald the comedy bromance duo (husband and his best friend) as well as my about to be teenage son leaving me as the only one with two ovaries in the camper and with the fact that I’m sat here having hot flushes they may be on their way out too. So many unimportant but nagging questions are running through my head like the torrential downpour drumming on the window as I speak ranging from:

1. Sod the food how much wine can I actually fit in the van for medicinal purposes?
2. Does Lakeland have a testosterone repellant I can spray around the van and on myself or do I have to have PMS / Pre-menopause hormones for a whole week to get any peace?
3.Will bunting actually make me feel more girly in a camping world that will involve stories of clutch repairs long winded attempts at humourous breakdown stories stuck on repeat.
4. If I put up sparkly lights, light scented candles, get out my sparkly rug will this constitute glamping or do need fluffy heeled slippers for that?
5. Will my husband actually read this post and then I will be in the proverbial dog house all week anyway?

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

This rainy cold spell is not doing my ass any favours either. It feels as if it is getting larger with each passing rainstorn. Comfort food is still the order of the day in fact I still want to cook soup for goodness sake! This cake was supposed to be frozen for the trip but instead it spoke lovingly to me. Quite literally my ass and brain simultaneously decided extra pounds were needed to be added to my curves in preparation for warmth needed on those cold camping nights. Oh well I can bake another one but just imagine if I had the mini oven I could just pop out a cheeky one there. Nope there is no hope for me.

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food – I choose to do a loaf cake (2 pound) as I have just discovered the joy of paper liners for cake tins and they are the only size I have (yet). It was a choice of faffing around with lining a tin or just plonking a liner in. Yes you know which one won, however this cake will also fit a 20cm deep cake tin just fine.

See also my 7 top tips for gluten free baking

Ingredients
175g ground almonds
175g softened butter (or use dairy free substitute or use flavourless oil such as sunflower)
175g golden caster sugar
175g self raising flour (Gluten Free – Substitute with gluten free self raising flour – like Doves. Also add 1 tsp of xanthum gum to prevent cake from being too crumbly)
2 large eggs (rooom temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g raspberries

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 180c / 160 fan / gas 4
2. Line a 2lb loaf tin
3. place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until well combined
4. Put half the mixture into the lined tin and level it
5. Sprinkle over the raspberries and cover with the remaining half of the mixture and level with a spoon or spatula.
6. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, ovens do vary. You should check your cake at 45 mins to make sure it is not getting to brown on top – if it is you can cover it loosely with foil to prevent burning).
7. Test cake by inserting a skewer, if it is ready it should come out clean. Remove cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Almond Icing (optional)
140g icing sugar
1tsp almond extract or 1 tablespoon of amaretto if you are feeling naughty
2-3 tbsp of water

Instructions
1.Mix the extract and 2 tbsp of water into the mixture until combined. Keep adding water gradually until the icing is thick but not too runny. Drizzle over the top of the cake.
2. Toast the almonds in a pan with no oil on a low heat. After about 3 minutes the oil will begin to be released from the almonds and they will begin to brown. Keep moving the pan around to stop them from burning. When they reach a golden brown colour remove from the heat and leave to cool before sprinkling over the top of your cake.

Serve and enjoy x

Raspberry Bakewell

Leftover Banana, Honeycomb and Chocolate Cake


After rescuing some rather disgusting looking banana’s from my work colleagues I decided to bake this cake as it also fitted the fact I had been a bit of a banana at work – more on that confession later.  I really enjoyed the lemon and blueberry loaf cake so this seemed like the next step.

BananaCloseup

There is nothing better than using up manky bananas that look like they could walk to the bin on their own and then like a magician turning them into something amazing with chocolate.  I like to add honeycomb for a really delicious twist. Banana’s (so Mr Nigel Slater tells us) are at their baking best when they are black as they are full of sugary sweetness so I figured well why not and I am glad I did.   This cake also freezes well.

Being a Banana (The Confession)
I spotted a note randomly left on the side in one of the teaching room’s and being a tidy freak I picked it up .  Nothing special about it – I had a look and the teacher in me noted that the spelling was incorrect with some crossing out (ironic as my spelling is awful online). 

I turned it over to read the other side and now I was rather confused as both sides looked the same.  I turned it over again and thought to myself ‘perhaps they rewrote it because of the spelling?’ and I continued this pattern whilst walking to my next classroom.

As I entered the door of the room I burst out into laughter, you know the real deep right from the pit of your belly type laughter and tears streamed down my face as it suddenly dawned on me how incredibly dumb and a complete and utter silly banana I had just been.

My husband calls me a malteaser as I am brunette but with an inner blonde struggling to get out.  I always make objections to this as I don’t think being blonde makes you any less intelligent but clearly the note in this case was quite right for me.  In my defence if a child had handed it to me then I would have been suspicious straight away but sadly it seems senior moments are most definitely coming my way (early) so watch out it will be hot flushes next!  Sadly I also have to say that my posts are about to become less frequent as this time of year in teaching land is to put it quite frankly a nightmare time of coursework and exam prep hell.  My already filled evenings will be spent extracting and marking coursework until the small hours leaving not a lot of time for baking, photographing, #FF and writing so I am sending love to all my readers and thank-you for your patience I’ll post when I can and yes I can hear all those violins you are playing for me now 🙂 but I do have a collosal coffee inspired macchiato cake planned for medicinal purposes to keep me awake (of course) so do pop back,

Adapted from Nigel Slater – Black Banana Cake (here)

175g Softened butter
140g Golden caster sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
35g Dark soft brown sugar (plus a small handful to sprinkle on top of the cake)
2 Over ripe black bananas
175g Self raising flour
70g Dark chocolate (chopped roughly or 100g if not using honeycomb also)
1 honeycomb bar (crunchie) or I used my own homemade honeycomb which needed using up
70g Milk chocolate (chopped roughly or 75g if not using honeycomb)
1 tsp Vanilla essence (I make my own as it is so easy – click here to find out)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 / 150 fan or Gas 3
  2. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper or liner
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy
  4. Add one egg and mix until combined
  5. Add half the flour and mix until combined
  6. Repeat with the remaining egg and flour
  7. Add vanilla essence, mashed banana and chopped chocolate and fold into the mixture just until combined (do not over mix)
  8. Put mixture in the tin and sprinkle dark brown sugar over the top
  9. Cover loosely with foil and place in the oven (middle shelf )
  10. Bake for 50 mins, remove the foil and then continue to bake
  11. Bake for the remaining 10 minutes or until cake is golden brown and is springy to the touch
  12. Leave in the tin to cool completely
  13. Devour with a steaming mug of hot chocolate to wash it down!

Next post alert!  Baking Addiction Part 2 – Confessions of a Baking Addict (Stage 3)

Not read part 1? – click here for a chuckle

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!