Tonka beans will blow your mind. As a long time fan of vanilla (So much so, if I was on Saturday Kitchen it would be my heaven ingredient), I would go as far to say tonka bean is like vanilla but better. Yes, better than vanilla! It has a similar natural sweetness but it also has more depth of flavour, almost a tobacco/smokeyness to it. A very interesting taste that marries perfectly to baking. I would say its an easy substitute for vanilla in most recipes. Tonka beans are really easy to get hold of online and not that expensive, they have a long shelf life and come looking like big black seeds which need finely grating before adding to your bake. In this recipe I have married them with coconut which taste really exotic and different, really unique.
Sometimes I get a baking itch I just need to scratch! This does happen quite often. The shop just always seems SO far away though. In these situations, I tend to start rummaging around in the cupboards to see what I have left that I can turn into a sweet treat. Occasionally it will be a disaster but most of the time something delicious pops out the oven. But once in a blue moon, an unexpected masterpiece is produced! Something truly life changing. I had some left over dates after Christmas and half a bag of desiccated coconut, then I discovered some pistachios from a wedding cake order the week before. Perfect for popping into a cookie… So now I had decided on what to bake I went to grab everything else I needed but, shock horror, I only had light brown muscavado sugar left. Agh! But I threw caution to the wind and used it anyway. I’m so glad I did! The cookies were soft, chunky, chewy. Totally delicious!
Out with the old and in with new, welcome 2017! There is a wonderful newness in the air, the festive decorations are back in the loft and the Christmas tree casually tossed in the alley way down the side of the house (however, the left over Xmas treats continue to sit, never-ending, in the cupboard. Twiglets? Pretzels? Cheesy Footballs anyone?). So many new years resolutions made that will most likely be broken within the month (or in my case, within the day. I always promise this is the year I will cut down on sugar. Or I will stop picking on bits left in the fridge after work. Totally unrealistic expectations). I get a bit fed up with all the festive baking, it is all pretty repetitive so I bypassed Xmas this year on Hollylovescake and decided to hold out until the new year with some fresh baking to start getting a bit excited about Spring being around the corner (OK, maybe a little early seen as it is only January but gotta have something to look forward to).
As I type, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Therefore, Spring is pretty much round the corner. From here on in, days get longer and the sun is pretty much round the corner, you can almost feel the heat (opps, no sorry, that’s the electric blanket I forgot to turn off). But for now, the mornings are still frosty and crisp and my body is screaming out to go into hibernation (Just 5 more minutes in bed! *Rolls over. Hit the snooze button for the fifth time, realise there is NO time left to snooze and now don’t have enough time to shower and have wear a hat all day to hide my greasy barnet*). Go to work in the dark, leave in the dark, just dark dark dark. All there is to look forward to in January is a rumoured new series of Peaky Blinders and Call The Midwife. Such grim days call for joyous snacks, especially of the sweet kind. My personal preference is a festive biscuit selection box. Custard creams! Bourbons! Chocolate digestives! All the winners are there and waiting to be dunked into a tea whilst curled on the sofa waiting for the wretched winter to pass.
Bananas are my favourite fruit. I love all fruit but these bright and convenient fellas are just the best! Similar to my 2nd all time faves, avocados, the window of yummy squidgy perfection is so tiny. I can regularly be found on Sunday mornings whilst on my brunch ingredient hunt, gently squeezing all the avos in Waitrose (I really wanted to type Asda there but who am I kidding?! This is gentrified London) to find the spot on amount of softness so I can mash it and top my toast (artisan sourdough, obvs). And bananas need that hue of yellow, for all signs of green to have just about faded away and the brown spots have yet to appear. That is banana bohemia! Anything older is too sweet and anything less has that weird bendyness and slight bitterness. I doubt there are many things worse in life than under-ripe avocados (in fact, I cried once when I found my avo was past its best. It had been a long day…) and bendy bananas. But rejoice! For those who find their ‘nanas have gone a bit dodge, here is the recipe to save the situation!
I created this three-tier naked cake for Nick and Sophie’s wedding in October. Sophie is celiac so she wanted the whole cake gluten-free so she could enjoy each flavour! The bottom is carrot cake with plum liquor soaked currants, the middle is courgette and coconut filled with homemade raspberry jam with the final top-tier a rich chocolate and almond torte. It was all sandwiched together with Mexican vanilla buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers that matched Sophie’s bouquet and table decor. Please contact me for any enquiries or to book your own celebration cake with Hollylovescake!
Hurrah for Autumn! It is easily my favourite season, no contest. You can keep your sweaty Summer days that make my fringe stick to my forehead thanks. Spring days where I always manage to under or overdress thus resulting in either being hot and bothered or freezing and bitter, nah, not for me. Winter is just cold and bleak plus it’s just so far away from the next Autumn! Give me crisp mornings where I want to set my alarm 10 minutes earlier just to give me snuggle time, crunchy leaves and the long-awaited emergence of my coat wardrobe (I have a weak spot for vintage coats. Last year, I had 5 different ones on rotation. A girl can never have too many coats. Fact.). The food is also far superior, so long salads, see you next year! It’s pumpkin season. I feel this chunky bright orange monstrosity is often just viewed as a Halloween accessory to be carved out and cast aside yet the flesh is so delicious. It is naturally quite sweet, the same as a butternut squash for those who haven’t chowed down on one before (they are from the same family of vegetables. A pumpkin is basically a giant squash.) and lends itself perfectly to baking.
I am an absolute cookie monster but I won’t accept any old cookie. I am what you might call, a cookie connoisseur! It has to meet my certain criteria or quite frankly, I shan’t waste the calories on it (my waistline is becoming much more susceptible to soaking up excess podge in my old age to allow a bad biccy to destroy it). I have preached many a time about the qualities of a good cookie, crunchy on the outer rim then getting chewy, almost fudge-like near the middle (hell, I even prefer mine to be under baked so they still have a ting of cookie dough about them. I’m sure it’s not health and safety friendly but what the heck?! I’d risk food poisoning for cookie nirvana). I had yet to find a perfect texture when using spelt flour as it doesn’t get that crunch or chew that I was searching for…. UNTIL NOW! I like spelt, it has much more flavour than regular flour plus it has some health benefits apparently to kind of balance out the sugary naughtiness.
Sometimes, I want to create a cake. Spend many a lost hour with my head in a book trying to find inspiration for the next project which is then followed by hours of creaming, mixing, whisking and baking before unveiling a masterpiece. And then there are days where I just want an easy peasy slice of cake which desired minimum fuss but maximum yum. Today was that day. I was feeling super simple so I baked this super simple recipe which has been passed on to me by my mother (and possibly the only recipe as the only other thing she can cook successfully is fish finger, chips and peas) (Mum, I know you will read this, I’M JOKING! I LOVE YOU REALLY!). With the scorchio sunshine outside, who really wants to spend hours in a sweat box kitchen? I want to be outside with my cake soaking up all the vitamin D I can get. The sugar syrup which drowns the cake once out of the oven adds a lushy, zesty moistness to the sponge whilst leaving a crunchy sugar coating which is why you can get away with not icing this beauty. The poppy seeds give a great texture and on reflection, I have added an extra 50g in the recipe below as I think it needs a bit more crunch.
I have just completed 6 weeks of no baking and oh my days I almost went cray-cray. It wasn’t by choice but forced upon me by my situation (reaaalllllyyyyy long story, seriously, it even bores me to tell it so I shan’t give you the deets). What I found out in this time is how happy baking and blogging makes me. There was a massive cupcake shaped void in my life! I love plotting my next cake or cookie, researching new flours to use or what glorious seasonal ingredient I can throw in. Next comes a bit of decoration inspiration courtesy of Instagram (I hate to think how many hours of my life is spent on Instagram, whole evenings lost scrolling through pictures of dogs in funny outfits). The photo styling and photography can often swallow up an afternoon by perching on chairs trying to get the perfect shot or spending 20 minutes deciding whether to feature the whisk in the photo or not (important stuff, obvs). The editing and writing up is always the nice part, seeing the end result whilst eating said cake. It is not only my hobby but creative release, without it I have too much time on my hands and too many sweet ideas in my mind just bursting to get out. Therefore after this 6 weeks of forced abstinence I have a must bake list about 4 pages long. An awesome excuse to spend more time in the kitchen!