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.
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!
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.
Some days I love to spend the whole day in the kitchen working towards a sugary sweet beast of a cake. Some days I just want something there and then, without sacrificing my day (Not that my days revolve around much anyway, looking at dogs in silly outfits on Instagram, reading Daily Mail online gossip column in secret… whoops!). These little treats are the perfect throw-together-in-10-minute yummies. I have to admit I have worked my way through quite a few coconut macaroon recipes trying to find baking bohemia, the crispy outside and the slightly soggy sugary innards. Hurrah! I have achieved it here! The top tip is condensed milk. Any excuse to use condensed milk is a winner with me (I licked the lid clean and now have a cut tongue to prove it. It is like crack in a tin.). A mix of coconut flakes and desiccated coconut gives the best texture too. If you don’t have limes, you can leave them out. Feel free to swap white chocolate for dark or milk too, go crazy. They are also a great option for the gluten free of you out there.
2016 has not been a kind year thus far. Now we are in March. Three months in. A third of the way through the year. Yup. Time is, quite literally, flying by. I can probably safely say that 2016 will not be a vintage year for me. Bad news followed by more bad news. My source of joy and escape has come from running. After over a year of being out of the fitness game due to injury I knew I needed to do something and it needed to be cheap as possible. And it doesn’t cost a dime to pull on your running shoes where ever you are and step outside. When I moved to London, my housemate Eilis got me to sign up to my first ever half marathon which was only 6 weeks away. It was the best thing I could have done! Evenings after work were spent sprinting up hills and Sundays mornings were all about 10km runs round north London. It gave me focus and drive, when you have your headphones in you can just zone out and not think about anything except you and the road. It’s the best form of therapy. Last weekend was my marathon, down in Brighton going along the sea front past the piers and the bandstand. The weather was dry with a bit of a breeze, perfect running conditions. I would have liked to have smashed it in under two hours but I managed at 2.08 hours, alright for my first one I reckon (I did end up in the medical tent though after aggravating an old knee injury, spent an hour in the medical tent with an ice pack on and sipping Lucozade like a drama queen. Poor Eilis had to come and rescue me). I have another half lined up for May to keep the training going. For anybody else going through a bit of a rough patch or just had a bad day at the office, I would totally recommend running (or any exercise for that matter), even if you can only run to the lamp post. Then the next time to the end of the road. Before you know it you might be doing a half marathon of your own!
I’m back! Some of you more regular readers may have noticed my 2 month absense (and if you didn’t, just humour me and just pretend you noticed I was gone). Things went a bit…. well…. cray-cray. Upside down. Stuff happened. All at once. I can tell you think I am being a right drama queen. First off, I changed jobs as you know. Hurrah! I am now officially at Lily Vanilli Bakery, spending my days making tasty pastries and delectable morsels of cake, #livingthedream. At the same time I moved house, and cities, into London. I’m crashing with some lovely friends of mine who have allowed me to rock up with my entire kitchen contents (and there is a lot… Working for Le Creuset def had its benefits) for a few months whilst I find my feet. And all of this happened as me and the BF broke up. Hmm. I spent most of December holed up listening to Adele (jokes!). Breaking up during Xmas is just the suckiest time (is there ever a good time?) but I must have been the only person to lose weight over Christmas (I wouldn’t recommend the heartbreak diet to anyone but its very effective. I’m now wearing jeans I haven’t worn since I was 22!). I didn’t really want to do much of anything including blogging and baking. Now though, I feel its time to get my identity back a little and get into the kitchen. There are good days and bad days, but if there is cake around, it makes those bad days a little brighter.
After a few weeks of struggling to keep my mouth shut I can finally reveal to you lovely readers that I have been offered a job as a baker at the wonderful Lily Vanilli bakery! Lily has been a great source of inspiration for me for the past couple of years and to have the opportunity to work with her is going to be shamazing. The bakery is in Shoreditch, on Columbia Road where they hold the famous flower market every Sunday. The bakery is open only on Sundays for homemade sausage rolls, fresh coffee and of course, delicious cakes. For the rest of the week, there are commissions to be baked and wedding cakes to make. Lily’s style is very natural, she uses lots of seasonal fruit and veg, edible flowers and darling decoration. There is currently just Lily and another wonderful baker, Erin, so it will be amazing to work with a small team plus I have so much to learn.
October is the best month, it always has been! When I was younger it was because it was my birthday month but these days I just love the crisp Autumnal mornings, falling crunchy leaves and enjoying the extra hour in bed after turning the clocks back. October this year has been particularly ace due to my market stall launching (the next one will be 15th November, Ascot farmers market, be there or be square). Due to the madness of planning, setting up and baking for the stall I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to blogging (Seriously, where does the time disappear to?!) so to make up for my slack behaviour, I thought I’d share with you my favourite cake OF ALL TIME! It needs no technique, its pretty much fool proof and perfect for chilly afternoons with a cuppa.
It’s August. Apparently. But the weather is screaming Autumn already as I noticed from my window the apple trees heavy with fruit and the conker tree ready to drop spiky conkers all over the roof of my car. It has also been raining. A lot. I have had soggy feet all week and have used the weather as an excuse to curl up on the sofa and do very little at all except dream of cakes for my new venture… This week I had amazing news for Hollylovescake, I have been accepted by Thames Valley Farmers Market and I will be having my very own stall from October! Once a month on the third Sunday. I’ll be having a mix of gluten free, vegan and normal cakes so there’s something for everyone. Please pop down if you are in the area, mention this blog post and get 50% off a cake slice.
This weekend I had the honour of doing the cake of a friend of mine to her long term beau, Amber Waterfield and Nathan McAllister. They had an alternative wedding day that really suited them, the ceremony took place on a bandstand on Brighton beach with the food and drinks at a local restaurant, Silo, which prides itself on using local ingredients and creating no waste (I even had to take my cake boxes home!). The weather was amazing, not a cloud in the sky! You can see from the photos how achingly cool they looked with Nathan rocking a pink blazer and boat shoes, Amber in her charity shop dress (a girl after my own heart!)…