Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake

Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! You probably know if you follow my blog that I absolutely hate to see food wasted or thrown away, so I’m always looking for ways to use up leftovers and avoid any having to go in the bin (one day I will have a garden with a compost heap!). Food waste happens so much more than usual over the festive period so I’ve been doing my best to use up what I can. I found this awesome recipe for a Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake and it was just perfect as I had exactly the right amount of parsnips left over from Christmas dinner to use up. I’ve made cakes using courgette and carrots before, but never parsnip so I was also excited to see how it turned out.

I started by lining and greasing a loose bottomed 22cm cake tin. You can also use two sandwich tins if you wish.

I melted 175g butter, 250g light brown sugar and 100ml maple syrup on a low heat. I let it cool slightly. Use pure maple syrup if you can (not maple ‘flavoured’ syrup), I was lucky to receive some Canadian maple syrup as a gift.

I grated 250g parsnips and 1 apple using a food processor. I added the zest and juice of 1 orange.

Into the cooled butter mixture I whisked 3 eggs.

I then added the dry ingredients 250g self raising flour, 2 tsp mixed spice and 2 tsp baking powder.

Finally I folded in the grated parsnip mixture, as well as 50g chopped pecans.

I poured the mixture into my tin.

I baked the cake for around 1 hour on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Make sure it is done in the middle by testing it with a skewer as this is a very big and dense cake. If you use two sandwich tins, you will only need to cook it for 30 minutes.

To make the filling I whisked 250g mascarpone with 3 tbsp maple syrup. I used my hand mixer to do this as it thickened the filling nicely. I cut the cake in half and spread it over the middle. I put the other half of the cake on top and finished with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

The cake was so delicious! I loved the freshness of the filling, the texture that the chopped pecans added and the overall flavour was absolutely scrumptious! I couldn’t have guessed there were parsnips in the cake if I hadn’t made it myself. Although it is of course still cake, it certainly felt like a healthier snack and made me feel much better after all the indulgence of the past week.

I’m entering this into Extra Veg hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

And into Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Fab Food 4 All.

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Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake

Ingredients

  • 175 g Butter
  • 250 g Light brown sugar
  • 100 ml Maple Syrup
  • 250 g Parsnips
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Orange
  • 3 Eggs
  • 250 g Self raising flour
  • 2 tsp Mixed spice
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 50 g Pecans chopped
  • 250 g Mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp Maple Syrup

Instructions

  1. Line and grease a loose bottomed 22cm cake tin, or two sandwich tins
  2. Melt the butter, light brown sugar and 100ml of the maple syrup on a low heat. Let it cool slightly
  3. Grate the parsnips and apple, add the zest and juice of the orange
  4. Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter mixture, then add the flour, mixed spice and baking powder
  5. Fold in the grated parsnip mixture, as well as the pecans
  6. Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake the cake for around 1 hour on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Make sure it is done in the middle by testing it with a skewer as this is a very big and dense cake. If you use two sandwich tins, you will only need to cook the cake for 30 minutes
  7. To make the filling whisk 250g mascarpone with 3 tbsp maple syrup using an electric whisk. Cut the cake in half and spread it over the middle. Put the other half of the cake on top and finish with a sprinkling of icing sugar.
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Orange & Gingerbread Pavlova

Orange & Gingerbread Pavlova
Christmas has come around so fast, like it always does, and is only 5 days away now. I really love the modern Christmas of today, and how every year new ideas and traditions are created. Although we still love the classics of Christmas, we longer stick to them so rigidly. So if you don’t fancy Christmas pudding after your dinner this year, you can turn to practically any other type of dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth and impress your family and friends. I think this pavlova does just that! It incorporates traditional flavours of Christmas like fresh orange and spicy ginger, but it also creates a stunning centerpiece for any Christmas dinner table.

I started by making the meringue. First things first, weigh your egg whites. I used 180g egg white, this is approximately 6 large eggs. If you’re left with egg yolks, check out some ways to use it up here. Or you can now buy egg white on it’s own in a carton from Two Chicks. I set it whisking in my mixer along with 1 tsp cream of tartar until stiff peaks formed – you know this has happened when you can tip the bowl upside down without it falling out.

The reason you weigh the egg whites is so your can double the weight of your sugar. I used 180g caster sugar and 180g light brown soft sugar. I added 90g of each sugar into the mixer after the stiff peaks had formed and while it was still mixing. I also added 2 tsp ground ginger.

I then folded the remaining sugar into the meringue using a spatula.

I arranged the meringue into a circular shape on a lined baking tray. I made it flat in the center and more textured around the edges.

I baked the meringue on 120C/250F/Gas Mark 1/2 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then left it to cool completely.

I whipped up 300ml double cream and spread it in the middle. I sprinkled over 3 crushed up ginger nut biscuits.

I then added some orange zest, slices of orange with the rind cut off and these gorgeous dark chocolate pearls from the Chocolate Trading Co.

How’s that for a showstopper?! I was so pleased with how it turned out and the final look after decorating.

The pavlova is best eaten straight away and I had some friends round who were happy to help! The meringue is sweet and spicy, the orange is juicy and fresh, and the chocolate and biscuits add texture amongst the soft cream. It really is a heavenly dessert. Happy Christmas everyone!

I’m entering this into Simply Eggcellent hosted by Belleau Kitchen where this month anything goes.

And into Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Fab Food 4 All as I used leftover egg whites that I had frozen when I made custard with the yolks a few months ago.

And into the No Waste Food Challenge ran by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary and this month hosted by Jen’s Food for the same reason.

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Orange & Gingerbread Pavlova

Ingredients

  • 180 g Egg whites (approx 6 large eggs)
  • 180 g Caster sugar
  • 180 g Light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp Ground ginger
  • 300 ml Double cream
  • 3 Ginger nut biscuits crushed
  • 1 Orange
  • A handful of Dark chocolate pearls

Instructions

  1. Weigh your egg whites. Then whisk them in a mixer along with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form - you know this has happened when you can tip the bowl upside down without it falling out
  2. The reason you weigh the egg whites is so your can double the weight of your sugar. Measure out both types of sugar to double the weight of the egg whites, and add half of the sugar mixture into the egg whites while the mixer is on. Add the ground ginger too
  3. Fold the remaining sugar into the meringue using a spatula
  4. Arrange the meringue into a circular shape on a lined baking tray. Make it flat in the center and more textured around the edges
  5. Bake the meringue on 120C/250F/Gas Mark 1/2 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then leave it to cool completely
  6. Whip the double cream and spread it in the middle of the meringue. Sprinkle over the crushed up ginger nut biscuits
  7. Then add the orange zest, slices of orange with the rind cut off and the dark chocolate pearls
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Stollen Muffins

Stollen Muffins
I’m pretty sure that everyone can relate to the feeling of never having enough time to do the things you want to do. For me this relates to baking a lot. I wish I had more time to bake all the things I’d like to try! So sometimes a recipe like this is just what I need. Instead of making stollen, which needs 2 hours time to prove, I thought I’d transform it into muffins for a quicker result with just as much flavour!

I started by creaming together 100g butter and 100g caster sugar.

In a separate bowl I whisked up 2 eggs, 100ml milk, 25ml brandy and 1 tsp almond extract.

I also measured out 60g dried cranberries, 60g mixed peel, 60g sultanas and 60g diced up marzipan. I sprinkled a little flour in and mixed it around to coat the fruit and marzipan. This stops it sinking to the bottom of the muffins while they are baking.

I combined the egg mixture into the creamed butter, then added 200g self raising flour, 50g ground almonds, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp mixed spice and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.

I separated the mixture into 12 tulip muffin cases and sprinkled some flaked almonds over each muffin. I baked them on 180C for approximately 15-20 minutes. It will depend on your oven as to how long they take but you want them to be golden brown on top and a skewer to come out clean.

I left them to cool completely then dusted them generously with icing sugar.

If you are a fan of stollen and also short of time like me, I highly recommend this recipe. It’s got everything your taste buds are craving; Christmas spices, sweet fruit and nutty marzipan. It embodies Christmas and will be a guaranteed hit for all your family, friends or colleagues!

I’m entering these into a few blogging challenges this month…

Starting with Treat Petite, hosted by Cakeyboi, where the theme is Red and Green (aka Christmas).

I’m also entering it into Simply Eggcellent hosted by Belleau Kitchen where this month anything goes.

And into Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Fab Food 4 All as I used some leftover marzipan and dried fruit that was in the cupboard.

And into the No Waste Food Challenge ran by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary and this month hosted by Jen’s Food for the same reason.

And finally into Alphabakes hosted by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker, this month the letter is N for Noel so anything Christmassy goes!

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Stollen Muffins

Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 100 g Butter
  • 100 g Caster sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 ml Milk
  • 25 ml Brandy
  • 1 tsp Almond extract
  • 60 g Dried cranberries
  • 60 g Mixed peel
  • 60 g Sultanas
  • 60 g Marzipan diced
  • 200 g Self raising flour
  • 50 g Ground almonds
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Handful of Flaked almonds

Instructions

  1. Cream together the butter and caster sugar
  2. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, milk, brandy and almond extract together
  3. In a third bowl, measure out the dried cranberries, mixed peel, sultanas and marzipan. Sprinkle a little flour in and mix it around to coat the fruit and marzipan. This stops it sinking to the bottom of the muffins while they are baking
  4. Combine the egg mixture into the creamed butter, then add the flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg
  5. Separate the mixture into 12 tulip muffin cases and sprinkle some flaked almonds over each muffin. Bake them on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for approximately 15-20 minutes. It will depend on your oven as to how long they take but you want them to be golden brown on top and a skewer to come out clean
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BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015

BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015
At the end of November I was given some tickets for the BBC Good Food Show by the lovely people at ao.com, I jumped at the chance to visit the show again as I went lasted year and enjoyed wondering around checking out all the different products and of course sampling as much free cheese as possible!

I couldn’t help but be drawn in by this chocolate fountain when we first arrived, doesn’t that liquid layer of chocolate cascading down look so perfectly shiny and delectable? How could you resist indulging!

I passed by Mash Direct‘s stand and with a boyfriend who is not only vegetarian but also one of the biggest mash potato fans I’ve ever met, I couldn’t not stop and purchase some of their products. I bought some champ, potato cakes and vegetable burgers. I prefer to support independent family run companies like this and it’s a bonus to know that all of their food is free from anything artificial, and that it’s cooked and packaged on the same farm it’s grown on.

I was intrigued to try Yorkshire Drizzle‘s products as I am a big fan of dipping bread into oil and vinegar. They had a delicious rosemary oil and cherry balsamic vinegar that I particularly enjoyed sampling.

Hilltop Honey are a brand that I have recently become a big fan of. Ever since my WI bee themed meeting (where I made Honey & Orange Cupcakes) I’ve become more aware of how honey is made and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. All of Hilltop’s Honey is raw, and it either comes from British bees, or organic European ones. I got the cinnamon infused honey which is amazing! I’ve been enjoying it every morning with my yoghurt.

I’m not a tea drinker myself but I can recognise a tea brand that are going to be a hit! Bluebird Tea make some delicious sounding flavours such as Christmas Cake, Gingerbread Chai and Strawberry Lemonade. They are an independent company and their tea is hand blended in the UK.

So most of my day involved eating cheese samples, which was pretty amazing. I actually ended up buying some cheese from Snowdonia Cheese, but I also had to feature these super cute heart shaped cheeses from Godminster – how adorable! Godminster also make vodka and their cheese is organic.

For lunch we grabbed a sausage butty from Heck. The company is a family business who focus on quality. That is certainly evidenced from their delicious products, and also the giant queue outside their food truck!

I watched Nancy Birtwhistle – the winner of The Great British Bake Off series five – make a Sage & Onion Tart. It looked absolutely delicious! I might try it myself as it’s a very simple and cheap recipe to make. EDIT: Sadly I can’t find her recipe online anymore, but I made a Brie, Leek & Onion Quiche that was inspired by her recipe!

Nancy was fantastic on stage and chatted away comfortably. She also concentrated on passing on her baking tips and tricks, such as using her food processor to make pastry and to roll the pastry out between two cut open freezer bags as they don’t wrinkle up like cling film.

After I watched Nancy I ran into Bake Off series five finalist Richard Burr. I was so excited to meet another Bake Off contestant! I then watched him be interviewed, he talked about his new book and about how he made a cake for a gorilla!

I couldn’t resist some of Joe Delucci‘s gelato. I had a scoop of coconut and a scoop of cookies and cream. They were so creamy and honestly some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!

I absolutely love Baileys and they had a stand to promote their new cocktail recipe – the flat white martini. It’s a mix of espresso, baileys and vodka. It felt like a sophisticated drink and had a real kick to it!

My last stop of the day was Joe & Seph’s, who make gourmet popcorn. I got the Christmas flavour of mince pie, which is so moreish. All their popcorn is air popped which gives it a lighter flavour. I had such a fun day at the Good Food Show! I came home with a bag full of quality products that I am so excited to start eating my way through. You can see my vlog of the day below.

 

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Kitchenware Giveaway

Kitchenware Giveaway

If you are a fan of beautiful kitchenware, then you are going to love Create Serve Keep! They are an online kitchenware shop where specially chosen kitchen products have been brought together for you to browse through. All of the products are very sleek and have a modern feel, with many of them coming from Scandinavian design. Some of the products were designed over 50 years ago, but still have a very modern feel – which just shows you how well the Scandinavians design kitchenware!

Their website is split into three sections; one for creating food, one for serving food and one for storing food. They only feature products which are of a high quality, and this is evident when you are browsing the website. Everything on there is gorgeously well designed, built for looks just as much as purpose.

One of my favourite products from the website is the glassware by Oiva Toikka, particularly the cake stand. It’s so pretty! To be honest I feel in love with a lot of the stuff on there! If you are like me, and love looking at kitchenware, the same will happen to you! I think that cake stand is going on my Christmas list…

Create Serve Keep are giving readers of my blog the chance to win some of their fabulous products. The products in the giveaway are all pictured above and listed below, together they are worth over £100!

NB. If there is more than one colour of the item available, the winner can pick the colour they want as long as it’s in stock.

Enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below

 

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Treat Petite November 2015 – Round Up

Treat Petite November 2015 – Round Up
This month’s Treat Petite was all about Autumn and baking anything you felt fitted in with this time of year. That meant lots of caramel and apple flavoured bakes, which set me drooling! Enjoy browsing through the bakes below and don’t forget to visit the blogs if you like the look of them…

Toffee Apple Muffins from The More Than Occassional Baker, I think these flavours perfectly sum up Autumn!

Parkin Cupcakes with Toffee Buttercream & Popping Candy from me! I wanted to jazz parkin up a bit this year and the popping candy is to represent fireworks.

Ginger Bonfire Cupcakes from The More Than Occassional Baker, such a fun bonfire bake, perfect for Guy Fawkes Night.

Delicious Alchemy Dairy & Gluten Free Oaty Cookies from Caroline Makes… these came in a simple to make pack and are both dairy and gluten free.

Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, these look absolutely gorgeous!

Apple & Sultana Strudel Biscuits from Belleau Kitchen, I would want to dive into these when they were warm straight out of the oven.

Strawberry Marshmallow Fluff Cookies from Tin & Thyme. I’ve had fluff before but never thought of using it in cookies.

Prehistoric Cinnamon & Vanilla Cookies from Family Friends Food. Cinnamon is such an ideal flavour for Autumn.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallows from my co-host Cakeyboi. They were actually made in a multi cooker and I love the toasted marshmallow topping.

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins (Gluten Free) from The Gluten Free Alchemist. These look stunning!

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies from The More Than Occassional Baker. They look so crispy and I can just dream of biting into one of these and enjoying the yummy filling!

Check out Cakeyboi for next month’s challenge!

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J2O Midnight Range Cocktails

J2O Midnight Range Cocktails
The festive season is upon, and I am really feeling in the Christmas spirit already! I’ve already done about half of my present shopping, I’ve eaten several mince pies and I’m planning on checking out the Christmas markets this weekend. Speaking of spirits… this is the time of year where I like to treat myself to a festively themed tipple. I am a huge fan of cocktails and as I am not a big drinker in terms of volume, when I do drink I like to have something of good quality that really wows in the taste factor. Both of these cocktails are so easy to make, but with tasty results. I can’t decide which one I like best!

I was recently sent these two new flavours from J2O’s New Midnight Range. Midnight Amber is an orange and lemon juice with winter spices, and Midnight Forest is a cherry and orange juice with a hint of chocolate. The cocktail I’ve made with the Midnight Forest is called the Midnight Martini, which is a recipe from the J2O website. The cocktail I’ve made with the Midnight Amber is my own invention, which I have christened Amber Sky.

To make the Midnight Martini I put some ice in a cocktail shaker and added half a bottle of J2O Midnight Forest (approx 137ml) and 50ml Martini Rosso (Red Vermouth). I shook it up then poured it into a martini glass. I garnished the drink with some orange peel on the rim of the glass.

The Midnight Martini was sweet and fruity, it felt dark and mysterious and I loved the berry hue that the mixture created. I certainly felt like a sophisticated cocktail and I can imagine if you servied this at a Christmas party it would go down very well!

To make the Amber Sky I filled a large wine glass with ice, then poured in half a bottle of J2O Midnight Amber (approx 137ml), 50ml Cointreau and topped it up with lemon and lime soda. I garnished the drink with a slice of orange.

The Amber Sky is a bright and sunny drink which cheers up these dark winter nights, it has a fruity taste but with a hint of winter spices which warm your tastebuds. It felt like the ideal drink for the festive season and I think a Christmas breakfast or brunch would be the perfect setting for a cocktail like this.

What’s your favourite festive drink? Let me know in the comments!

NB. I was sent the J2O to make cocktails with, but I was not required to write a positive review.

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The Cake & Bake Show 2015

The Cake & Bake Show 2015
Last weekend I went to The Cake & Bake Show in association with Neff at Event City in Manchester. The show has been running in Manchester now for 3 years and it spent it’s first two years at Manchester Central. As well as moving to a different venue, it’s also extended it’s run time from 3 days to 4 days. I attended on both the Friday and Saturday, here’s what I got up to…

Christmas and pink were big themes! The carpet of the venue was a bright pink, there was bunting hung all over the place and Christmas trees everywhere. It definitely felt fun and festive. Neff also had a stand featuring their well known ‘hide and slide’ ovens as featured on The Great British Bake Off. If you’re interested in learning more about Neff ovens, you can visit the Neff shop at ao.com.

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into The Cake & Bake Show was this giant chair photo opportunity, of course I got straight in there! Now where can I get one of these for my living room…?

Next I headed straight to The Great British Bake Off theatre where I spent a lot of my time at the show. Beside the theatre was a stand selling all the Bake Off merchandise. I’ve not used any of the merchandise myself, but the pretty pastel colours and retro feel makes it look very attractive.

Sugar & Crumbs make flavoured icing sugar which is seriously yummy. I couldn’t believe how much the apple crumble flavour actually tasted like apple crumble! I don’t know how they do it. They’ve also started selling piping nozzles that make some pretty impressive flowers with buttercream.

The Big Bakes Bakery had giant versions of popular bakes on sale such as cookies, gingerbread men and jammy dodgers. I shared a jammy dodger with my friend Sophie and she also purchased one of the giant gingerbread men. I love the idea of over sized bakes!

I didn’t buy much at The Cake & Bake Show, but I had to grab this amazing bargain of 1 litre of Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract for only £22! That was a show only deal, but you can still get it for £25 from the One Stop Cookery website.

The other thing I bought at The Cake & Bake Show was some delicious fudge from The Kilted Fudge Company. Their fudge is so flavoursome and creamy!

I watched Chetna Makan from series 5 of The Great British Bake Off make a Cardamom & Coffee Swiss Roll, which looked so pretty. She is well known for fusing Indian flavours with traditional baking. She talked about how the bakers from her series like to get together every few months and each of them bring a dish along. Chetna has a YouTube channel now where she releases a new recipe every week. She is also bringing out a book in April next year called The Cardamom Trail, but she explains that not all the recipes feature cardamom!

John Whaite made some Fig, Walnut & Gruyere Bagels which also had Marmite in the dough. He has such a fantastic stage presence and was chatting away to the crowd and making jokes the whole way through. John talked about how food is a projection of who you are, and so it can feel really personal when people don’t like your food – which I really relate to! He has a cookery school called John Whaite’s Kitchen and also a new book out soon called Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients.

Then it was time for this year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya to take the stage! She made her Peanut Salted Caramel Tart that earned her a Paul Hollywood handshake. Nadiya talked about her time on the Bake Off. She hated doing the technical challenges, her favourite creation was the chocolate peacock, and her final showstopper bake of a wedding cake was her hardest challenge. She is writing a weekly column for The Times at the moment, but would love to do a book.

One of my favourite bakers from this year’s Bake Off, Tamal Ray, hit the stage to make his Apple, Pistachio & Rose Madeira Cake. Tamal revealed that he applied for the show in series 3, he got quite far but didn’t make the final cut, and was encouraged to apply again. The final showstopper was Tamal’s favourite bake during his time on The Great British Bake Off, and since being on the show Tamal has made two more wedding cakes. He also confirmed the answer to a questions he gets asked a lot – that he gets his syringes for injecting cakes off ebay and not from the hospital where he works!

Luis Troyano was up next and he made some absolutely delicious looking Spanish Empanadas filled with beef, chorizo and vegetables. He also added paprika to the dough and cooked them in the deep fryer. Luis has a book called Bake It Great which features recipes with a Spanish influence. He recommended shopping in Indian supermarkets for spices and exotic flavours as they are much more reasonably priced. He also said that he thinks if you can bake a great Bakewell Tart, you can bake anything, as the tart combines a great range of baking skills.

Sandy Docherty was so entertaining to watch, she is such a great character. She made Parmesan biscuits with a cream cheese filling. I couldn’t believe that she was only in four episodes of The Great British Bake Off, it feels like she was in the show for longer! She did her creme brulee ‘wobble’ dance and also judged some bakes from a young boy in the audience who had brought in some profiteroles filled with creme patisserie – what a talent!

I was lucky enough to meet Mat Riley before he appeared on stage to make his refined sugar free carrot cake. He sweetened the cake with dates and a fruit syrup. I was surprised to hear that Mat only got into baking two years ago when he had some time off work and started going through his wife’s recipe books and making things. He now has a YouTube channel where he makes something new every week, it’s called Mat Riley Bakes.

There were some competition cakes on display for visitors to look at. My favourite was the Jungle Book cake above – such stunning detail!

There were also cakes made by professionals on display, which were jaw droppingly amazing. There is so much time and detail that goes into these beautiful cakes.

The Ideal Home Show was also on in the same venue and it had an amazing winter wonderland area full of Christmas trees. It made me feel so happy and festive!

I had such a great time at The Cake & Bake Show, and I got to meet Lisa Faulkner too! I was a bit disappointed that the show was smaller this year. As it had moved to a bigger venue and had two successful years in Manchester already, I was expecting a bigger show. I know that the show has been taken on by a new events company, so I hope that they give it more attention next year. The Great British Bake Off stage was certainly the highlight for me, and although there were some great exhibitors, I would’ve loved to see more. It was also great that you could access the Ideal Home Show for no extra charge.

You can watch my vlogs of the day below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

NB. I received a press pass for the show, all opinions are my own.
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Cupcake Food Art & Afternoon Tea

Cupcake Food Art & Afternoon Tea
A while back (it’s taken me ages to post this!) I was invited to help decorate some cupcakes and go for afternoon tea in Cheltenham with AO.com. So I jumped on a train and headed down there with no real idea of what exactly the cupcake decorating portion of the day would involve. After getting off the train I took a taxi to a remote studio down a winding lane, and this is what I found…

Paul Hollywood’s face being constructed out of cupcakes! I was so impressed at how the face had been put together and the level of detail that had been achieved by using cupcakes. The piece of food art was being created by Food is Art by Prudence. Prudence and her company make life size models of people out of chocolate and cheese, as well as various portraits like the above out of different food items like fruit, chocolate and cheese.

Prudence showed us how she wanted us to decorate the cupcakes with both buttercream and AO.com green coloured fondant.

Along with Sus from Rough Measures and Amy from AO.com, I got stuck into decorating the cupcakes with some chocolate buttercream. I’ve decorated a lot of cupcakes in my time, so this was fun and easy for me. I whizzed through it and decorated a whole bunch of them. Prudence said I was hired! (If only the commute wasn’t 3 hours!!)

I then moved onto fondant, which I am much less confident with. I decided to do my name in fondant on top of the cupcakes and I was really pleased with how it turned out, now to get it into the portrait…

Woohoo my name made it into the portrait!

Watch the full video of the construction of the portrait, including the final result above. You can also see more photos over on AO’s blog by clicking here.

We headed to the absolutely gorgeous Ellenborough Park afterwards for afternoon tea. We got so lucky as it was an absolutely beautiful day. It is such a stunning venue and I can imagine it being perfect for weddings, a romantic getaway or a girls weekend. They have hotel and spa facilities there too.

We got the champagne afternoon tea and it was so damn good! The  champagne (I wish I knew the brand) was really delicious, and this is coming from someone who is not a huge fan of champagne/sparkling wine.

There were then four different types of scones, all served warm with jam and clotted cream. I’m not sure which scones out of the four I had, but I thoroughly enjoyed them!

Finally we moved onto the cakes. There was a delightful carrot cake, a swiss roll with a very clever pattern on the outside, a mini chocolate tart that was very delicious, and a beautifully bright purple macaron. I was very full but very happy by the end!

I went home with a copy of Paul Hollywood’s new book – Pies & Puds. I read it on the train home and I’m definitely going to give some of the recipes a go. It was such a fun day and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this unique project. Let me know what you think of the cupcake portrait in the comments!

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Golden Oat Raisin & Almond Cookies

Golden Oat Raisin & Almond Cookies
Healthy baking is all the rage right now, The Great British Bake Off even did a ‘free from’ themed episode this year which included dairy, gluten and refined sugar free challenges. We’re all more aware of what we’re eating and we’re being told we need to cut down on certain foods. I’ve always maintained that moderation is important, so it nice to add a healthy element to baked goods where I can. These Golden Oat Raisin & Almond Cookies are packed with wholegrain goodness plus oats, almonds and raisins. A tasty treat with hidden health benefits!

I was sent two bags of Marriage’s The Master Millers Golden Wholegrain Flour to bake with and I decided to make these cookies with the plain flour. Using wholegrain flour in your baking is an easy way to get more fibre in your diet. Marriage’s Golden Wholegrain Flour contains twice the amount of fibre than regular white flour. Current guidelines recommend that we should be eating 18g of fibre per day, and research has shown that only 5% of people in the UK manage to meet this target, so we need all the help we can get!

I toasted 100g almonds in the oven on a lined baking tray for 5 mins at 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

I chopped them up into pieces.

I creamed together 100g butter with 200g soft brown sugar. I then whisked in 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg and 1 tbsp golden syrup.

I mixed in 125g oats, 1 tsp baking powder and 125g Marriage’s The Master Millers Golden Wholegrain Plain Flour.

Then I added the chopped almonds along with 100g raisins.

I used my hands to shape pieces of the mixture into balls which I then flattened down. I put them onto a lined baking tray leaving room for them to spread.

I baked the cookies on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes until they were lovely and golden.

I sent these with my boyfriend to take into work with him as I not only have my own colleagues requesting bakes, I also have his colleagues asking for them too! It’s great to have a wide audience of willing volunteers to eat my bakes. The cookies went down really well and I grabbed one when they were still warm, which really is one of the best parts of baking. They were so yummy, I would call these a hearty and comforting bake that makes you feel very homely – if that makes sense!

I’m entering these cookies into this month’s Alphabakes hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes…, the letter this month is ‘M’ for Marriage’s flour in this recipe!

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Golden Oat Raisin & Almond Cookies

Ingredients

  • 100 g Almonds
  • 100 g Butter
  • 200 g Soft brown sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 125 g Oats
  • 125 g Golden Wholegrain Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 100 g Raisins

Instructions

  1. Toast the almonds in the oven on a lined baking tray for 5 mins at 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Then chop them up into pieces
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Then whisk in the vanilla, egg and golden syrup
  3. Mix in the oats, baking powder and flour
  4. Then add the chopped almonds along with the raisins
  5. Use your hands to shape pieces of the mixture into balls. Flatten them down and put them onto a lined baking tray, leaving room for them to spread. Bake the cookies on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes until they are lovely and golden.
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