Yesterday I was delighted to attend a gluten free cakes and tea loaves course at Peterborough City College, hosted by Paul White aka Paul the Baker. This whole GF thing is still very new to me, I was diagnosed as intolerant at the start of the year and am still trying to find my feet a little. Luckily it’s not a complete ‘no’ to gluten, so if I do still fancy a slice of normal cake (or pizza!), I can still have one every now and then, and keep on cooking and baking as I love. The courses at Peterborough are really very reasonable (as they’re subsidised), so when I saw this one advertised at just £20 for 4 hours, it was too good to miss. The course took place at the college’s training kitchen, all industrial ovens and stainless steel, a little intimidating to start with! It was only a small group of us and Paul soon put us all at ease, it was to be a relaxed day and certainly no bake-off style competitions. He had 3 recipes for us, with all ingredients and equipment included in the cost of the course. First up, a gluten free swiss roll. Now I already love swiss roll as is (my original gluten-filled post is still one of the most popular on the blog); it’s simple, straight-forward and fat-free. But this gluten free version takes things to a new level! Amazingly it uses exactly the same quantities, method and ingredients as a normal swiss roll, just substituting regular flour for a gluten free blend (we used Doves Farm throughout the day). My swiss roll before, and after baking (note the light and fluffiness!)… … and then rolled and filled with raspberry jam. The result? Soft, fluffy and sweet swiss roll. Amazing! Back home I finished it with a sprinkle of icing sugar and of course had a few more big slices 🙂 Next on the course, a gluten-free tea bread. Again the recipe is quite similar to a ‘regular’ one – flour, milk, yeast, pre-soaked dried fruit, and a little sugar and butter. Due to the limited time we had in the kitchen, Paul recommended baking these in muffin cases so they’d cook a little easier. The mixture went on for seemingly ever, I ended up with two whole trays full! I added some extra dates to the second batch to fruit them up a little. The one thing I really did learn from the day is that gluten free baking doesn’t look the same when it’s done. Whilst you’d expect normal bread rolls to go a lovely golden brown on top, when they are gluten free they only just start to colour. It’s a bit of a fine art making sure they are cooked inside but not over-done. Nevertheless I was really pleased with the way they turned out – sweet and fruity and perfectly snack size. These bad boys will keep me going for breakfast for the next few weeks! They are great on their own and even better with a smidge of butter 🙂 One slight downside however, I really struggled to get the muffin cases off, even when they were cool. Next time I make these I will just grease the tin and cook them straight in there. Last on our recipe list were gluten free brownies. Even more unusually, these are majority made with sweet potatoes – no butter, no sugar, just a sweet potatoes, GF flour, a little maple syrup, cocoa powder and some chopped dates for added texture. The mix was simple to make and went straight into the oven. Again it was a little tricky to tell when these were done, although the top went crispy they seemed to take forever to cook inside! Finally they came out and had a lovely brownie crust on top. As we were running short on time I finished mine off with a twist at home, cutting into small squares and drizzling with a little dark chocolate. At the college I was a little unsold on these, the texture and taste is not what I’d expected from a brownie, but once they’d cooled and had the chocolate topping my mind was definitely made up. For a cake that’s both gluten free and vegetable based they are amazing! Fudgy and sweet, easy to make and great little treat bites. So overall my day at the college was a pretty big success! Three yummy bakes, some great new acquaintances, and a new zest to go out and try some more GF recipes. Whilst I’ve decided that Peterborough is perhaps a little far to go (200 mile round trip), I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for some more courses soon. A day in someone else’s kitchen is always great fun!
The ingredients and recipe for this cake came in one of the most amazing Christmas presents ever – a baking package all the way from my brother and sister-in-law in New Zealand! You may remember a couple of years ago now, my post on Cakes with the Kiwis, when we were lucky enough over travelling round for a couple of weeks. Of course lolly cake featured – and they were so amazing to remember how much I loved it and send me the kit over.
The name might be a bit confusing to UK readers – it doesn’t have anything to do with lollipops on sticks, or even ice lollies. Over on the other side of the world, ‘lolly’ is the kiwi word for sweets, much as the US call it candy. The lollies in question, the main part of the cake, are these Eskimos.
They’re not readily available in the UK, I understand there is a similar version called Fruit Puffs, also not available here! The closest thing I would describe them too are foam fruits – you know the pink shrimps, yellow bananas etc? I’ll be sure to try a version with these soon and post the results, watch this space.
Once you’ve got hold of the sweets, the most difficult bit is out of the way! Other ingredients are simply crushed biscuits, melted butter, condensed milk, and a little desiccated coconut to roll on the edges. This would be a great recipe to make with kids – supervising the lolly cutting of course, the rest is all hands-on stickiness with no baking required.
The original recipe (as sent to me) can be found on the Griffin’s website. They make an amazing malt biscuit which adds that certain something to the cake. I’m hoping the same effect can be made with a malted milk biscuit or similar over here when I attempt a UK version….
The cake is made as simply as crushing the biscuits, cutting up the lollies, then mixing with condensed milk and butter.
The mixture needs to be rolled into a log shape and chilled for several hours before I eating, which was a bit sticky to start with but made infinitely easier using a big sheet of greaseproof paper.
Likewise, to coat the edges in coconut, another roll around in the greaseproof paper saved my kitchen from an otherwise nutty mess!
Once chilled the log is inconspicuously ordinary as a cake…
… until you cut in and reveal the amazing brightly coloured lollies!
This is one seriously addictive cake, I just cannot describe. The malty warmth of the biscuits melts into the creamy condensed milk, and the lollies come through with a squishy tangy marshmallow like texture. Sooo good!
Unsurprisingly this batch didn’t last long at all in our house, and hence the hunt begins to track down an Eskimo lolly alternative in the UK. More here as it happens!
Back in the summer, as part of a hen weekend in the wonderful city of York, 5 lovely ladies and I brunched at Bettys tea rooms and cafe. After spending the previous day at York races, we were very excited to go to one of Yorkshire’s finest and fill up on all the yummy wares we’d heard so much about.
Luckily the great British weather was on our side, and a heavy summer downpour had meant the streets were almost clear, and we only had a short wait for a table. I have it on good authority that the queues often stretch right round the building!
Of course this gave us a great excuse to have a peek around the shop and take-away cakes, and my goodness what a selection!
From macarons in all colours and flavours…
… to fresh fruit cakes, tarts and slices…
And gifts for the baker (or eater!) in your life:
It still being breakfast time, it only seemed right that we start with something a little more savoury though. The summer menu was absolutely full of delights, and so difficult to choose!
I eventually settled for a Swiss Breakfast Rosti – and was certainly not disappointed. A giant cheese, cream and potato rosti, topped with bacon, eggs, and mushrooms – it was absolutely delicious.
One of the best things about Bettys for me was the silver service – in every way. From the silver tea pots and fine china, to the immaculately dressed and wonderfully polite hostesses. It was all wonderfully British and very proper!
Breakfast washed down with some tea, well, it was now 11am, so… elevenses? We couldn’t come to Bettys and not have cake!
There was so much choice – everything from the shop and more besides. From a fantastic display to the famed cake trolley, we were literally spoilt for choice.
And a great selection I think we made:
I opted for a strawberry Paris-Brest – a wheel-shaped choux pastry filled to the brim with strawberries and cream, and topped with chocolate shavings. Delicious!
Tummies completely full of breakfast and cake – we paid another quick trip to the shop for some souvenirs. What would the boys say if we returned home cake-less!
I went for one of Bettys classics – a Yorkshire Fat Rascal. This little devil is a plump, fruit filled scone, with a cheeky little face made out of almonds and cherries.
And of course I couldn’t resist his younger other – a delicious sounding chocolate and orange rascal.
Stopping for a few more pictures on the way – the queues had already started to build up outside. It’s apparently not unusual for people to queue all the way round the front of the tearoom, for an hour or even more!
When we were there, in mid-July, the Tour de France decorations were still adorning the streets in force. How cute is the bunting made from little yellow, green, and patterned t-shirts?
And I couldn’t leave without some snaps of the wonderful window displays in Bettys – it truly is a great institution and one I hope to go back to soon!
They say word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to get noticed – and who am I to contest. This lovely new little bakery/coffee shop was recommended by a friend, and now here I am doing the same for you!
Situated in Trinity Square, just a minutes’ walk each from the Victoria Centre and Cornerhouse, The Pudding Pantry opened up about 2 months ago, and is an oasis of calm amid all the shops, bustling restaurants and busy streets.
Inside the decor is bright and fresh – it reminds me of being at the seaside, with soft blues and greys, and lots of white painted wood.
There are also plenty of quirky touches – as any good tea room should have!
Vintage tea pots on display under the unique lighting:
Hand-bound wooden fronted menus:
And a hand-written specials board of the days sweet treats:
And what an array of sweet treats there were – on display in the windows; in and around the main glass-fronted counter, we were absolutely spoilt for choice! From pastries to muffins to sliced cakes to scones… they really do have the whole lot.
My cake camarade opted for a scone with jam and cream – but was asked did she mind that it would be about 10 minutes as they were freshly baked to order? What a treat!
And the warm summer weather tempted me into something fresh and fruity – the amazing looking, sounding, and definitely tasting blackberry and mint cake. It was divine!
So consider my word well and truly spread – definitely a tea room to try next time you are in the area!
Yesterday I was privileged to be a part of the Clandestine Cake Club stall at Cake and Bake Manchester 2014. CCC founder Lynn Hill had wanted us organisers to be a part, spending the day explaining to fellow cake-fans our simple concept of baking, sharing and eating cakes. Simple and very social, needless to say we had a lot of interest!
After a gruelling 6am start, Julia, organiser of CCC Derby and I, soon perked up once we were on the stall!
And it wasn’t long before the crowds started to arrive.
Each day CCC was hosting a ‘Taste on the Table’ competition, for members of near and far clubs to enter their best bakes, to win fab baking prizes from Renshaw and Nordicware. And they did not disappoint – before long we had a fantastic array of cakes adorning the stall.
And the icing on the cake as you may put it… I was kindly volunteered by the rest of the team to judge the competition with none other than Peter Sidwell from Britain’s Best Bakery. Nerve-wracking doesn’t even describe it – tasting 10 cakes sounds like a lot of fun, but surround by crowds of eager bakers was a little over-whelming! Thankfully the girls were on hand to snap me at my most flattering…
Peter was a real pro, and between us (conferring with me hidden behind the banner!) we chose a Chocolate Porter Cake with Baileys icing as the winner – baked by Heidi from N. Yorkshire & Tees Valley CCC. She too was rather overwhelmed but a very worthy winner, for a great combination of flavours and lovely light texture.
Judging duties out the way, I had plenty of time to wander round, sample and shop!
Of course I had to try this fantastic cupcake dress, made of 800 cupcakes and over 5000 sugar flowers – simply stunning.
And some fantastic things to see at the other stalls – Nielsen-Massey were making cocktails with their extracts…
… and Billingtons had created a brilliant Sugar Market, with lots of fudge made from their different varieties. Handily placed very close to our CCC stand, we stopped by there more than a few times!
Around the show there were some absolutely fantastic display cakes, of Disney, Pixar, and other famous ‘faces’:
I just loved this tray of ‘savouries’ – how great an idea to have the scotch eggs with creme eggs inside!
At the heart of the show was a giant jungle-themed installation, with the show’s main competition inviting bakers to create everything animalistic and evergreen. Some more absolutely outstanding cakes – they must have taken days if not weeks!
Back at the CCC stall we were thrilled to have some familiar faces drop by. Glenn, Christine and Kimberley from 2013’s Great British Bake-Off – all of whom were absolutely lovely and only too happy to chat everything cake.
And the delightful GBBO Series 4 winner Frances Quinn. She was such a sweetie, genuinely a lovely person, although seeming a little rushed off her feet!
Over by the Bakery we bumped into (ok stalked a little), Eric Lanlard of Cake Boy fame. He is a huge CCC supporter and so enthusiastic about everything baking related.
After a hard days cake-chatting I made it home a little after 9 – rather weary after a 14 hour day but delighted to have met so many fantastic people on the stall. Here’s to spreading the Clandestine Cake word!
And of course I didn’t come back empty handed – a combination of shopping with free samples from Dr. Oetker, Rainbow Dust and Sugar & Crumbs – plenty to keep me in the kitchen trying new things over the next few weeks.
Ah yes, the week of my birthday, where, once again, friends and family gather to eat their own body weight in cake. There is a definite theme to all my birthday presents and the respective celebrations at which they are received – cake, cake, and more CAKE! Take for example this amazing 3d patisserie card – will definitely be finding a permanent home for this little lovely in my kitchen.
This year Rob and I hosted a birthday afternoon tea at home; we moved house in September and still love our new bolthole, as today proved it’s perfect for parties!
A windy Sunday afternoon in Derbyshire didn’t deter the party goers, and we made sure the house was well decked out for an afternoon tea party – balloons, banners, and of course bunting, zig-zagging across the hallway. I’m wondering how long I can get away with having this up for, the cats seem to have designs on pulling it down though…
Starting with sandwiches, served with champagne, we tucked in to the veritable feast in front of us.
Enjoyed freshly baked from the oven, delicious fruit scones made by Al…
… and topped with home-made (by t’other Jen) blackcurrant jam, and whipped cream. Yum!
And and experiment with one of my brilliant birthday presents, a cake pop maker, little white kitty cat cake pops! They are not my finest work of art but not a bad testament to my battle with the evil that is candy melts.
And what else could you finish a birthday party with, other than a big sticky birthday cake?!
Made by the lovely Jen this was one brilliant birthday cake:
– that just got better and better when I cut inside. Look at the chocolate checkerboard!
Some more fun and games…
… before waving guests off with full tummies and little party bags! Who doesn’t love a party bag, at any age?
Thanks to all my lovely guests for a great afternoon, helping to make (and demolish) all the yummy food, and of course my fabulous presents! All that remains now is for me to get baking and start using some of them…
Ah don’t you love the pre-Christmas festivities, drinking mulled wine until you lose feeling in your toes and can’t tell if it’s from the cold or the alcohol; and of course the local school / village fair, buying more Christmas decorations than you’ll ever need, trying to dodge excitable small children, and purchasing your weight in home-made produce from the food stalls.
I personally love local school fairs as it gives me an excuse to make some ridiculously over the top and fully festive wares – last year it was my Red Velvet Rudolph Cupcakes; this year I went all out to Let it Snow!
The cupcake base was a moist sponge crammed full of white chocolate chips. Snow on the outside, white squishy chocolate on the inside.
The snowflakes themselves were certainly a challenge. I was using some free cutters that came free with a magazine, whilst they looked so delicate and intricate, well, they were! A lot of patience was used up prising each prong out with a cocktail stick. And repeating times about twenty. I added a little tylo powder to the white fondant before rolling it, so the snowflakes would harden quickly and not go mushy on their buttercream base.
Once all my snowflakes were ready I mixed up the buttercream – a simple 1/3 butter to 2/3 icing sugar, coloured brightly and festively with red and green gels. Using a star nozzle I piped different patterns onto all the cupcakes…
… before topping with a fondant snowflake, and matching snowflake sugar sprinkles (these ones are from Morrisons).
And of course, no snowflake would be perfect without that magical sparkle, in the form of some holographic edible glitter.
The finished batch of cupcakes – oh how I wanted to try one before giving them away, but it may have been a bit obvious…
They went down an absolute (snow) storm at the Christmas fair, with kids and adults alike. Happy holidays indeed!
A few weeks back I learnt that one of my favourite tea rooms in Nottingham had been taken over and reopened – of course I had to go and see for myself!
Located on Bridlesmith Walk, the cafe is right in the centre of town, but tucked away in an unassumingly serene little arcade, providing welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Heading up Bridlesmith Walk, from Bridlesmith Gate:
And arriving at The Walk Cafe!
On walking through the door a host of delicious delights greeted us, the choice was not an easy one.
We got talking to one of the owners, Laura, who told us that the kitchens were too tiny to bake everything onsite, instead she roped in on of her neighbours, who makes makes all the cakes from scratch each week. As well as classics like lemon, chocolate, coffee, etc., she likes to try something different every week, such as this seasonal apple and elderflower cake.
And those with special requirements needn’t miss out! These gluten free cakes looked equally as delicious.
Aside from the cakes, The Walk also offers a range of other sweet and savoury items, and we pored (and drooled) over the wonders in the big glass fridge. Macarons! Cupcakes! A chocolate SHOE! What more could a girl want?
Finally for us to dote on, a beautiful range of cake stands and loose leaf teas.
The tea menu is no less extensive, there are some wonderful blends and flowering teas to choose from.
Eventually making our way to sit down, we were pleasantly surprised to find the decor has been brightened up a little, with fantastic hand=painted floral artwork on the walls:
Whilst still maintaining the quirky with beautifully mis-matched furniture, a mix of old and new.
I opted for some coffee and walnut cake (later followed up with a toasted tea cake, what a greedy pig!), both of which were well-portioned and very tasty.
Everything was served in vintage china – cups, teapots, and plates.
As you can tell we had a lovely time – I for one am very glad this great venue has finally re-opened and restored to its former glory, and beyond! Laura and her staff were friendly and attentive, despite a busy Saturday rush. They’ve only been back open for a couple of months but I’m hopeful many more to come, and am already looking forward to going back.
I was a big fan of Enid Blyton books when I was little – from the Magic Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series, to the Famous Five and Secret Seven, and, of course, the Malory Towers books. I’d be wanting to re-use my castle mould for a long time, it’s only had one bake since I bought it – see my Chocolate Lego Castle Cake from last year.
This time I was determined to make a good, stable, and plentiful recipe – it’s a huge mould so does need quite a big mix. I seem to remember last time never quite having enough mixture, and having to keep mixing up more batches to add to the top! I started with a bundt cake recipe, as this has the same kinds of volume and lightness I was after, and scaled it up to fit the capacity of the mould, which was about 3 litres.
Ingredients – to fit 3 litre castle silicon mould or similar
4 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
525g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
375ml low fat yoghurt
– Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla, until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl
– Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a teaspoon of flour each time to prevent curdling
– Add half the yoghurt and half the remaining flour, mix, add the remainder, and mix again.
Technically you should fold in the flour and yoghurt but I found this to be a bit challenging with so much mixture! Even my Breville mixture was struggling by the end – but the texture wasn’t affected by beating instead of folding.
– Prepare your mould/tin by greasing it very well. I used a cake release spray to get in all the corners and crevasses, and made sure it all had a good, thick coating. Then, dust with a layer of flour, and turn upside down to shake off the excess
– Pour the mixture in the tin, no need to spread it out as the weight will make it flow into all the corners. You’ll see that this recipe didn’t quite fill up the mould, I didn’t get the steps to the castle, if you wanted this you’d need to scale up the recipe by another 20% or so.
– Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Cover the top of the mould in greaseproof paper – this will stop the top from cooking too quickly and burning, and also prevent the middle from rising too much and giving you an uneven base
– Overall my cake too around 1 1/2 hours to cook. After 45 minutes, check to see how it is getting on. The top will look cooked but if a skewer or similar is inserted you’ll see the inside is not done.
Return to the oven and check back every 10-15 minutes, again inserting a clean skewer (I use the back of thin teaspoon) to see if it’s done. If it comes out completely clean, the cake is cooked, if not, it’s not! Be sure to test a different part of the cake every time, and push your skewer down into the very centre of the cake as this is the bit that will cook last.
– Leave to cool for at least an hour before gently easing out. It may be tempting but the cake is more likely to break when it’s hot. After leaving mine for a couple of hours and it turned out perfectly – I was so happy! The excess flour you can see in a couple of parts brushed off easily the next morning.
The texture of this cake was perfect and I’d definitely use again – easily changing the flavour with some cocoa powder; orange or lemon rind and juice; spices such as ginger, cinnamon; coconut… the list is endless!
To ice, I wanted a flavour that would complement the vanilla, but also a look that would go with the brickwork effect of the castle.
I’ve used the Primrose Bakery‘s caramel icing recipe many times, it bubbles up wonderfully to a delicious sugary brown and cools to a lovely smooth texture. I adapted it slightly here to thin down slightly so it would flow into the intricate design of the cake a bit better.
350g soft brown sugar
350g icing sugar
– Put the milk, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, and heat on high until boiling. Stirring constantly, allows to boil for one minute.
– Take off the heat and beat in half the icing sugar, sieved. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before beating in the remaining icing sugar.
– Continue cooling until it reaches the consistency desired for your cake. If it cools too much and gets too thick to pour or spread, simply heat up again for a few seconds at a time.
I covered my cake using a combination of pouring and spooning over and into the detailed sections, all with the cake on a wire rack over a cling film-covered baking tray, to catch any drips. It was quite a sticky job so no in-progress photos!
For the finishing touches, I added black gel colour to some chocolate fondant, and cut out the required shapes.
Windows for the towers:
… and of course a suitably grand front door!
And for a final finishing touch, well, no castle is complete with flags!
And, flags or no, I think it’s a pretty good replica of Lulworth Castle, which the Malory Towers books are rumoured to be based on.
This months cake club was held at the lovely Kay’s Tea Room in Willington – a delightful little venue and one I’ll definitely be returning to.
And the selection of cakes was equally as fab – with lashings of ginger beer of course!
How amazing are these Famous Five figurines?
And the castle went down such a treat! Out of that huge cake there was just a lone tower left for me to take home to Rob.
Oddly timed on the last day I actually lived in the city, yesterday marked the first event of the new Nottingham City Clandestine Cake Club, of which I am a proud co-organiser! More on the move to follow in due course I’m sure…
As our first event was to be held in a private room at an Indian Restaurant, the very hospitable Mogal E Azam, we decided a Bollywood Nights theme would spark up everyone’s imagination, and give way to some great flavours, colours, and of course plenty of glitter.
Not being too great on spices and what to do with them, I kept the cake quite simple but vamped up the outside. Sorry for the lack of step-by-step pictures, but in the midst of packing I was a little rushed, and the kitchen wasn’t really in a fit state to be photographed either!
The recipe I used was Woman & Home’s Sticky Ginger and Treacle cake – as I followed it exactly (obviously omitting the praline and cream cheese icing steps) and in the interest of moving-house-constricted time, I won’t retype the recipe but leave you to click through. It was incredibly easy to make and baked like a dream, giving me a firm but so deliciously moist base for my Bollywood decorations.
To fill I simply sliced in half, and filled with copious amounts of mango buttercream, tinted orange to contrast with the dark treacle colour of the cake. I also covered the sides and top to give a good base for the red fondant to stick to.
The red fondant was pre-coloured, luckily I had a couple of packs left over from my Speed Sign cake, as the vibrancy and depth of colour would have been quite hard to achieve using white fondant and colouring it up.
And to decorate – would you believe it was incredibly simple! As you may know from previous posts, I’m a subscriber to My Cake Decorating Magazine. There is a free gift with every issue, so I’m slowly building a large stash of decorating items, some of which I’m not sure when I’ll ever use – until now!
First up was the pearl mould – I mixed a little tylose powder with some fondant so it would set firm, dusted the mould with corn flour, and carefully pressed in.
Because the mould is made of silicon, it’s really easy to bend back on itself to pop out and reveal a super-cute string of edible pearls!
Using a little edible glue I put them all round the bottom edge of the cake, and finished with some edible glitter for true Bollywood glamour.
For the top – another great free gift – this intricate circular pattern stencil.
I simply mixed up some orange royal icing (royal is much better as it sets hard), and, holding the stencil firm, smoothed the icing all across with a cake smoother, ensuring all the gaps were filled, before carefully peeling away to reveal the pattern.
And of course, finished with another generous sprinkling of edible glitter!
True to the Bollywood theme of bright colours, intricate details, and lots of sparkles – I was very happy!
And inside – a beautiful contrast of the red fondant, orange mango buttercream, and brilliantly moist, sticky and spicy treacle ginger cake.
And I’m pleased to report that our first Nottingham City CCC was a huge success! The bakers completely rose to the challenge with a great range of cakes (yes that one does have fairy lights), and we had such a lovely evening eating and chatting.
Where will the next cake club take us? Well, watch this space… (or sign up to the club page to join in: http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/groups/nottingham-city/ )