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.
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).
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.
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!
I have found myself with an awful lot of unexpected extra time on my hands recently. You move to London and think to yourself PARTY TIME! I’m going to be a socialite, out for post work drinkies every evening, shimmying from the latest cool rooftop bar to the next uber cool cocktail bar in Dalston. It will be amazing. I will be rubbing shoulders with Alexa Chung and Nick Grimshaw no doubt! I quickly realised this would not be the case. Not when buying two drinks will set you back over a tenner (or in one particular public house which will remain nameless, I was charged £16 for two vodka sodas. £16!!!!!!!!!! That was my entire food budget for the week gone). And everyone works crazy hours. And so my unexpected extra time has been spent being creative, I’ve thrown myself back into this blogging lark, I’ve had the sewing machine out (I made my housemate Eilis a laundry bag out of some unused 1970’s pillowcases for her birthday. I know, I know, just too cool…) and took my camera out and about. I love to have a feeling of purpose with my spare time, it doesn’t feel like a wasted afternoon when I have some amazing photos or a patchwork quilt to show for it. So actually, Alexa and Nick, you can keep your latest pop up bar, I’ve got a hot date with the sewing machine.
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!
London is the most over whelming but exciting place to be. Home is currently Muswell Hill which is north London, filled with yummy mummies and huge Victorian houses. For work I am in Shoreditch which has an extensive array of coffee shops and people who are too cool for school (eg Me). I love how each area has its own personality and style. If I want vintage, I go to Brick Lane, if I want inspiring food, Borough Market. There is always something going on. Back home I would wake up on a Sunday morning and the only thing to do was to walk to the corner shop to get the paper. In London I can do brunch, go to the museum, see some art, learn swing dancing (tried and failed miserably. I have no rhythm. Trod on everyone’s toe’s and no-one wanted to be my partner). Basically, whatever I want to do, I can. There are free things and expensive things. My favourite things are, surprisingly, those which are free. I have started running again after a while out of the game due to injury. Yes, I know you can do this anywhere but running to the top of Alexandra Palace and looking out across the whole of the London skyline at night is pretty lush. Birmingham at night doesn’t have quite the same appeal. As I look out the window now, it is 5pm and the sun is still shining and it is light. Spring is around the corner! Meaning soon evenings will be filled with pub gardens (drink soda water and sneak in your own vodka) and walks in Hyde park. Once you get off the crowded high streets and tourist traps, London is a bloomin lovely place to be where one can never be bored.
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.