Great British Bake-A-Long.. Part 3!

The Great British Bake-A-Long blog had to take a little bit of a back seat over the last week as I have been trying to prepare for my first ever wedding fair! However, that doesn't mean that I haven't been baking!!! I have managed to bake those delicious sounding Arlette biscuits. Watching the contestants rolling and folding and rolling and folding their butter and pastry mix together looked very long-winded and time consuming. However, that didn't stop me having a go.

There is a similar process with Arlette biscuits that you have when you are making puff pastry. The wonderful 'book-fold', turn and roll. (Book-fold is just as it sounds - you fold both ends of the pastry into the centre and then fold this in half, just like a book!)... Although, with these biscuits, the butter mix goes on the OUTSIDE of the pastry mix. One piece of the preparation process that I found exceedingly messy! Word to the wise. If you decide to give these lovely biscuits a go, use a layer of clingfilm top and bottom when you get to the rolling and folding stage. Keeps the worktops, your hands AND your rolling pin clean. I found this out the hard way!

After 3 (or was it 4), book-folds, the cinnamon sugar mix is then rolled into the pastry. In my personal opinion, I would sprinkle half of the sugar mix over the pastry, book-fold and repeat the roll and fold again with another layer of sugar mix. I think it would have made for a more even spread of cinnamon. Once they were cooked however, the result was some rather delicious cinnamon biscuits. I wouldn't have said they were a complete success, but they have all been eaten now, so I am pretty sure they were also not a total disaster!

Next, onto the bread! The first challenge the contestants faced was the 'quick bread' round. Bread that is made without the use of yeast. My first thoughts? Soda bread. One of my absolute favourites. I added  a couple of finely chopped spring onions, a couple of chillies, a handful of basil and a smidgeon of turmeric. Success yet again! The smell of bread wafting out of the kitchen was just too tempting to slice a wedge off the end of the loaf and cover it in butter whilst it was still hot. I did manage to resist the urge until it was cool though!

My next mission (should I choose to accept it...Well, I think I should give it a go!) - is the classic French baguette! Bread has never been something that I have managed to get in to. It was all well and good when I used to have a bread machine, you'd chuck everything into the pan, click a button and off it would go. Making bread by hand is a whole different ball game. for starters, it gets your arm muscles going! Nonetheless, I am not one to shy away from a challenge and although this next week is going to be a very hectic one, I am endeavouring on attempting baguettes! I also have to remember, that there is a Black forest Gateau and the desserts round to catch up with. Yum, cheesecake. One dessert I haven't made for along while!

Great British Bake-A-Long.. Part 2!

Well, the Great British Bake Off is now in its third week and I seem to have a little catching up to do on the baking challenge front!

Week one was cakes - Madeira, Mary's Walnut cake and the infamous show-stopper Black Forest gateau! Well, you've seen my version of the Madeira cake. Putting the coconut and chilli in the cake was an inspired idea! Just one more chilli and we would have had the right amount of heat in it!

Mary's walnut cake was next. The result? Oh my! Two layers of delightfully light, fluffy, crunchy walnut cake. Filled with vanilla butter icing and smothered in the most divine, teeth-tingling, sugary meringue icing all topped with caramelised walnuts. Mary's recipe called for 10 caramelised walnuts on top of the cake, but that left me with a substantial amount of caramel and walnuts left over. What to do with them? 

After roughly chopping the remaining walnuts up and swirling them in the glorious golden caramel, I spread the mixture out onto greaseproof paper and let it set before bashing the living daylights out of it to create little shards of walnutty caramellyness. I sprinkled this mixture into the centre of the cake for added decoration. One bite from the cake and it almost felt like you were eating popping candy!

I think in order to catch up with the contestants (and to save our waistlines expanding too quickly here in Bake-A-Long Central), I shall leave the gateau for another time when pudding is in order! So for this week (along with the bread that the contestants are baking), I shall make the second weeks challenge - biscuits. Biscotti and Arlette biscuits should keep me out of mischief for starters. The Arlette sound fantastically fun to make!

"It's Always Tea-time" in Wonderland...

A few weeks ago, I was asked to make a baby shower cake for one of my friends, Bex. The theme was Vintage Mad Hatters' Tea party. The design - "I trust you to come up with something good". Alice in Wonderland is such a wonderful story and there have been many versions of the film produced, it was tricky as to which one to take ideas from. My favourite version though has to be the 1951 cartoon. One which I loved watching as a child. The wonderful colours, the sleepy dormouse and the mad mad Hatter; all characters which conjure up wonderful ideas for a baby shower cake!

Pink and blue bunting, teeny tea cups and saucers, a tiny floral teapot housing a very sleepy looking dormouse, the tiniest pieces of Victoria Sponge filled with 'jam' balanced on top of little blue edged plates all made from fondant icing were arranged on an edible afternoon tea table cake.

I think Alice would have had to drink an awful lot of shrinking potion to sit round THIS table with Hatter!

The baby shower was in one of the most perfect settings for a vintage Mad Hatters Tea Party - the garden of an old thatched cottage in the middle of nowhere. 

Trees decorated with chintzy fabric bunting, paper lanterns and pale pink babygro bunting adorning the apple trees and gazebo, little pots filled with retro sweets and the most wonderful, original arrangement of 'potty' flowers. Yes, flowers arranged in a baby's potty! Hilariously lovely. The air was filled with beautiful old style music and the smell of delicious sausages cooking in the kitchen.


The afternoon was spent chatting, drinking tea (from the most dribblesome teapot), the most scrumptious homemade pink elderflower cordial and lemonade and tables full of delightful little triangle sandwiches and so many sweet treats we thought we would all turn into little cupcakes! As the afternoon rolled on, it came around to the cutting of the cake (the one part of cake making I always hope I am not asked to do). It always seems such a shame to cut up such beautiful creations.... Everyone had oo'ed and ah'ed over the tiny tea service, the little 'drink me' bottle (that actually said "It's a Girl!") and the pink and blue bunting wrapped round the cake. Bex plunged the knife into the cake to cut it for dishing slices out and promptly let out a squeal of delight when she saw the inside of the cake was blue and pink swirly sponge cake. 

The one thing, NO-ONE knew about. The cake went down an absolute storm and after one final cup of yummy tea, I left the wonderful tea-party to go and fall into a cake induced sleep.

Such a wonderful afternoon spent with lovely people, great food and a beautiful looking cake to boot!


Tiny Bit Of Super Exciting News!!!

This week, I have a tiny bit of super exciting news......

I had my first visit from our local Environmental Health Officer this week. A visit which can put the severe frighteners into the most calm of people. Well, I didn't have anything to be worried about after all. I passed with flying colours!!! Food Hygiene Rating - 5!

I am one VERY happy, proud and excited lady!

Great British Bake-A-Long

Wednesday August the 5th 2015 showcased the start of the new season of the Great British Bake Off. One of my favourite cooking programmes alongside Masterchef. I love following the contestants on their journey in the Bake-Off tent. I have to admit that I don't envy them attempting their bakes in an environment that can be so temperamental - heat, cold, rain, wind - they get it all thrown at them and yet, the majority of the time, they come up with some amazing creations! Yes there are disasters that crop up, but everyone has at least one of those once in a while. Even the best of bakers has the occasional hiccup!

This year, my husband has challenged me to follow the Bake Off by baking the same thing the contestants have to. The only difference I have is the judges are my husband and daughter as opposed to Mary and Paul. 

Week one and the first challenges the contestants faced were - Madeira cake, Mary Berry's Walnut cake and for the show stopper it was back to the 1970's for the delectable Black Forest gateau. Madeira cake was first up! Rather than doing a plain Madeira, I thought I would do something a little different by using some of the chillies that are growing on my kitchen window sill. After much deliberation coconut, chilli and lime was the resulting flavour. I think it turned out exceptionally well and my 'judges' definitely seemed to like it! Deliciously moist and fluffy. Although in my opinion, it needs 2 chillies in the mix to give it that chilli tingle!

Next on the agenda - Mary's Walnut cake....

Baking Nostalgia

Sorting through my recipe book cupboard the other day, I came across goodies that reminded me of baking when I was a child. Biscuit cutters, jelly moulds and a couple of old recipe books that belonged to my great-gran. My favourite recipe book, well, I have 2 favourites, are - the "Radiation Cookery Book - For use with the REGULO NEW WORLD Gas Cookers" (from 1941) and my other favourite - "The Kitchen Front" (A 1942 war-time booklet filled with recipes selected by the Ministry of Food from just some of the broadcasted B.B.C.programmes of the same name). Both of these books are chock full of recipes - some that most of us may have heard of, some, maybe not so familiar.

There is one recipe that reminds me of my childhood - Chocolate Layer Cake (American Origin). I remember making this with my mum when I was a small child. The delicious aroma of chocolate wafting from the kitchen as it baked in the oven whilst I licked the bowl (and spoon) clean. This was quite simply a necessity and possibly one of my favourite things about baking when I was small. After all, one mustn't waste any mixture! This particular recipe always called for only 2 tablespoons of cocoa, but me being me, thought it would taste super chocolatey if I added a little more! And when I say a 'little', what I mean is "Let's add at least 3 more tablespoons". Up until about 5 or so years ago, mum was unaware that this was what I did. "So THAT'S where all my cocoa used to disappear to!". Oops, I've been rumbled! But hey, it made for an absolutely scrumptious chocolate cake! Filled with butter icing and dusted with icing sugar - a slab of that after tea was the best thing ever! It still is. The simplest recipes are always the best in my opinion.

I did happen to stumble upon a genius variation of this chocolate cake. One afternoon, (quite a few years ago), I had a hankering for chocolate cake, so started to weigh and measure all the ingredients out, only to discover - no cocoa powder! You can't very well make a chocolate cake with no cocoa powder or chocolate. Some quick thinking was required here! Rummaging through the cupboards, I came across a jar of Horlicks and thought, 'Well, why not?'. Half an hour and one yummy smelling kitchen later, I had a cake that tasted remarkably like malted milk biscuits. Oh heavens, what a happy accident that was! So now, if I find myself short of an ingredient or two or simply just fancy experimenting with cake recipes, my stock cupboards are rummaged through to see what delights I can use as an alternative!

Birthday Celebrations and Cupcakes Part 2

Looking up at Sheffield City HallOn the morning of 28th May, I donned my party frock and pretty shoes, made sure the cupcakes were seated safely in the back of the car and made my way up to lovely Sheffield. I met the 'Winnie Project Master', at BBC Radio Sheffield and toddled down with her to Sheffield City Hall. Once all my lovely cakes were set up around the main birthday cake, made by Cheryl Thompson of Cheryl Makes Cakes, I got to work helping all that were there to set up the thousands of cards and presents. The room looked beautiful - lilac and white balloons everywhere, lilac ribbon adorned the chairs and beautiful sparkles sprinkled all over crisp white table cloths.  By almost 11 o'clock, everyone was sitting, waiting patiently for the birthday girl to arrive at her surprise party! Radio SheffieldBBC Radio 5LiveThe Sheffield Star, The Sun and BBC Look North were all there along with the town crier, The Vernon Sisters and Razzamataz. It turns out we were due to have a surprise of our own. Five minutes before Winnie was due to turn up, the fire alarm sounded! Initially we suspected it may have been part of the surprise, but alas, it wasn't. So we were all ushered outside to wait until it was clear for us to go back into the building.

Picture of Winnie Blagden and BBC Radio Sheffield's Kat Harbourne with a bunch of 100 pink roses

Once the panic was over and we had been given the all clear from the fire brigade, we all filed back into the hall and awaited the arrival of Winnie. As soon as we had been given the nod to say Winnie was coming through the doors, The Vernon Sisters took to the stage in their beautiful 1950's dresses and sang a wonderful a capella rendition of 'Happy Birthday' followed by a (very) rousing speech from the jolly town crier (whose surname, ironically, is Cryer!) - "God Save Winnie aanndd the Queen". Winnie was totally overwhelmed with all of the fuss and I have to say, I think I probably would be too, if I had been in her shoes! After a brief interview with Radio Sheffield, Winnie was presented with a copy of the Yorkshire Post from the day she was born and a beautiful silver letter opener. The Vernon Sisters sang a few well-known classics and were followed by the wonderfully talented children from Razzamataz who gave us all a wonderful show - singing and dancing in their rosy red flapper dresses (and sharp suits for the boys). After another wonderful performance by The Vernon Sisters and once all of the delicious cakes had been eaten, it was time for the birthday girl and all of her guests to depart.

The Vernon Sisters and myself

It was an incredible honour to be part of lovely Winnie's special day and certainly one that I will remember for a while. Winnie is truly a lovely and very wonderful lady; so very deserving of all of the presents, cards, flowers and chocolates she has been sent. She may not have had any surviving relatives, but after this absolutely awe-inspiring campaign, I think Winnie will have gained a whole new family who wish her well.  Winnie Blagden, you are a lovely lady, I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Beautiful Cakes for a special lady

Birthday Celebrations and Cupcakes!

Having a birthday is something that all of us celebrate every year, spending it with family, friends and loved ones.Special birthdays usually end up calling for a big party - your 18th, 21st, 30th, etc. etc. and ultimately, the biggest birthday of them all, your 100th!

Well, on the 31st May 2015, one lovely lady from Sheffield, Winnie Blagden, who has lived in the city her entire life, was doing just that, celebrating her 100th birthday.  There was one thing missing in dear Winnie's life to help her celebrate her landmark birthday - she had no living relatives to celebrate with. However, she does have some wonderful carers from Serenta Homecare, who enlisted the help of BBC Radio Sheffield in arranging a surprise for her. Initially, this was going to be a surprise tour round the radio station, as she has been an avid listener for quite some time. Well, BBC Radio Sheffield, thought they could go one better and launched a Facebook campaign to arrange a few cards and letters for her to open on her big day. Little did they realise the power that social media could have on such a thoughtful plight. By the morning of 15th May, the day after the campaign was launched, over 2 million people had seen the post and it had been shared all over the world! From one small appeal, it grew and grew. As Radio Sheffield received more and more cards and presents, they thought it would be a lovely idea to present them to her in a nice way for Winnie to remember. So, they arranged for her to have tea with the Lord Mayor of Sheffield. She thought she was just having tea and cakes.


I was one of the 6 million people that saw the Facebook post and decided to offer my cake making services. I just thought it was such a lovely thing that BBC Radio Sheffield was doing, making this lovely lady's birthday a memorable one. Obviously, the radio station had been inundated with requests to send cards, presents and others offering their services, so I was extremely excited when I had a reply saying "Yes, we would love to take you up on your offer". The theme was to be nostalgic/vintage, so I set my brain to work. Having recently discovered brush embroidery icing, I thought this would fit perfectly with the theme. 42 beautifully iced cupcakes later (some lavender, some sponge), I was all set to participate in the Winnie's big day.

Birthday Shenanigans!

Well yesterday was my birthday so this weekend I have spent with my family enjoying being looked after! It's not often you get to share your birthday with the Queen either! We both had a fly past from a Lancaster Bomber - not bad at all :) I ate far too much chocolate i thought i was going to explode!

Sunshine And Blueberries

Well, this week has been a wonderful week for sitting out at lunchtimes enjoying a lovely cup of tea with toast and jam. It has also been a great week for creating yumminess in the kitchen. From blueberry muffins (which, it turns out, my daughter is far far better at making than I am!) to delicious fruit scones which went exceedingly well with butter, jam and clotted cream. This afternoons' baking involved a delicious blueberry and apple loaf courtesy of @utterlyscrummy on Twitter. I did give it my own little twist by replacing the apple juice with orange juice in the mix. Then covered it in beautifully glossy orange icing, grated orange zest and pretty little lavender flowers. It tastes simply divine when it is still warm!