This is the cake I did for my friend Donna Aplin who’s mum was getting married today! Although this morning was pretty murky, thankfully the sun came out for them this afternoon. There wasn’t much of a brief to work to except that she wanted lemon and orange featured in the colours and this is what I came up with. A Summery treat with the top layer being coconut caramel and the bottom layer is strawberry and white chocolate.
I remember when I started baking and being told that baking is a science, its not like cooking where you can throw a little bit of this or that and it will probably be a taste sensation. You have to stick to the recipe or it will be a disaster! I’ve come to learn (often the hard way) that actually, you can go against the rules and shake things up if you understand how your ingredients work. So I’m going to tell you what I have learnt about different kinds of sugar when baking and how you can confidently change them around in a recipe.
Nobody wants to read a depressing blog but everyone has rubbish weeks. And I have had one of them. I’ll spare you the gory deets but it has been pretty grim. I’ve been rolling around in my own self pity and snaffling comfort food. I know I have it bad because when I was buying lunch the other day, I ordered a slice of cake. I never order other peoples cake (unless it is a highly worthy reason). I’m always certain my own cakes are better than everyone else’s and I would only be disappointed and waste the calories. Sometimes though, there is a space that only a slice of rhubarb crumble cake will fill. I was just too critical though as per and ended up doing a full critique which was good in a way, it gave me something else to think about for 10 minutes.
Check out this beauty of a cake I made over the weekend for my dear friend Becky! The decorations are all made using white chocolate with sprinkles or colouring dust. It is white chocolate with fresh raspberries and homemade strawberry jam. It was super yum! Please contact me using my contact form if you would like to enquire about your very own special celebration cake!
These little lovelies I made for a garden party I went to today, my brothers girlfriends parents threw a Summer (the sun made a brief appearance..) BBQ and I obviously couldn’t turn up empty handed. I spent hours making a brown sugar custard tart with roasted strawberries. Being a smart arse I didn’t bother to read the recipe and rather too late realised the pastry had to rest for 4 hours, then roll, then rest again for 2 hours, then blind bake for 40 minutes (at this point I went to bed, I needed resting as well as the pastry), allow to cool completely, make the custard, back in the oven for 40 minutes…. Phew! It tasted ahmazing but anything which involved 13 egg yolks and 700ml of double cream would do I guess. I also whipped up a simple white chocolate and raspberry sponge and these gluten free courgette and coconut cupcakes.
Coming back to real life after India was a huge uncomfortable bump. I was feeling rather blue, real life is just pants. I was still day dreaming about flexing my yoga skills under blue skys with the parrots flying overhead. So I was very glad to have my chocolate day course booked in for the week after my return with the fabulous Mark Tilling, twice crowned UK’s best chocolatier at Squires Kitchen near Guildford. This was the second part of my prize after winning Tate and Lyles Baking Dreams competition back in November (I haven’t stopped entering competitions since, you’ve got to be in it to win it).
Today I had the VERY stressful job of delivering this beautiful vintage style wedding cake to a quaint village hall in Warwick. I held the cake, Mum drove. My mum seemed to completely forget how to use the brake pedal correctly resulting in A LOT OF RAISED VOICES. But after what seemed like the longest journey ever, I happily placed the cake on its special table. The room had been decorated with wild flowers and homemade bunting, it was so creative and dreamy! The top cake is salted caramel and the bottom cake is raspberry, strawberry and vanilla bean. A massive congratulations to Jess!
Today I was driving round for work with my windows down, basslines pounding out the speakers and my shades on. I know, I know, it was only 13 degrees but after a cold, long winter, 13 degrees feels practically tropical (well, I had my windows down for about 5 minutes. Still a little bit on the nippy side…). I’m normally a real Winter girl, the dark colours and snuggly knits suit me more but I am super duper tres excited for this Summer as my collection of vintage summer dresses has grown exponentially over the winter, to the point where I am struggling to shut my wardrobe. I am blessed with a job that means I travel an awful lot, and spend many a lunchtime in a little village hunting out the best charity shops and making best friends with the OAP volunteers (I think I probably am an old woman in a young body, my love of baking, sewing and collecting home furnishings that wouldn’t look out of place in Del Boys flat). If you make friends with the shop staff then you are onto a winner, they will nip out to get you stuff kept out the back intended to be sold on to vintage shops. The best ones are independant charity shops in little towns, sometimes they don’t realise the value of their own stock and as I pay at the till, I feel a little flicker of guilt that I have just got my hands on a 1960’s unworn bottle green wool coat with mink trimmed collar for £20. £20! 5 meters of 1980’s limited edition Liberty print fabric for £6. 1950’s gingham A line dress for £2. And thats my weakness, cute cotton dresses in amazing prints, I almost have enough to wear a different one every day of Summer. Every time I make a successful purchase, I let out an inner squeel of delight and strut down the street, run home to try it on and stride round the house feeling like I have won the lottery (Oh my, can you imagine if i won the lottery on the same day as having a triumphant charity shop find?! Off the scale). Obviously, finding the winners means sifting through a LOT of rubbish. Piles of Primark cast offs, floral chintzy curtains and wonky eyed teddy bears need to be pushed to one side and finding treasure is getting harder and harder. But once you get an eye for it, you can spot a 70’s maxi dress on a rail from 100 yards. So if your nan needs her wardrobe clearing out, you know where to find me!
So as if I wasn’t busy enough already what with the baking, blog, sewing, job that keeps me away from home 4 nights a week plus the long distance relationship, I now also have yoga to keep me occupied. Over the last two or three weeks, I have been doing an hour of yoga 6 days a week and already, I can’t imagine life without it! Around a year ago, I slipped a disc in my lower back and had to have a week off work. Ever since then, if I picked up too much weight or did certain exercises I would agitate it and the pain would return. This was very frustrating as I have always been into keeping fit and was a regular runner, boxer and regularly attended a boot camp, but if I did a squat too fast or threw a punch too hard, I would be in agony. Lifting cast iron pots at Le Creuset for a job didn’t help! I eventually went to see a chiropractor who said my spine was now also out of line and the back muscles are super tight. He advised most of the activity I was used to doing probably wasn’t doing me any favours, I kept trying for a couple of weeks to do exercises that were more back-friendly such as spin class and using a cross trainer. But still the pain persisted (sad face). So I did some research, spoke to a few people and the advise always seemed to be yoga. I kinda just ignored it at first, my perception of it was that it was just slow and boring, how could it possibly give me the workout I was used to? In the end, I reluctantly gave it a go. I started off with a beginners YouTube video. I could hardly hold the moves or even get into position!
What a superb week of double celebrations! Valentines day AND pancake day! Celebrating love and eating in one week, what could be better. I actually think pancake day should be a weekly, if not daily event. Why confine them to one day of the year? I’m not talking about silly skinny crepes, which I find wholly unfulfilling as a pancake (lemon and granulated sugar? What kind of topping is that?!). I’m talking about huge, pillow like American pancakes. Every Sunday should be enjoyed by the nation by having a pancake brunch, a proper weekend indulgence. If you find the perfect recipe giving you the desired fluffy cloud-like texture, they are perfect for soaking up ridiculous amounts of maple syrup. Throw in some blueberries, maybe some chocolate chips, swop the flour for spelt and even use some honey. Perhaps even go savoury? You could have starter, main and dessert all using pancakes. What else need you ever eat! So versatile, there is a pancake for everyone. My current favourite ones are spelt and coconut ones from Eva In The Kitchen: