Sending gifts to Spain

This week, my son asked if I could send something homemade for him to give as gifts to people he has been working with at a primary school in Benalmadena, near Malaga. Cakes were out of the question but biscuits seemed a possibility.

I made a batch of spiced cranberry and almond biscotti and some oat and cherry cookies and packed them in bags in a padded box and posted them last Saturday morning. They arrived at the school on Wednesday morning, which I thought was quite impressive bearing in mind it was the bank holiday weekend.

So, his Spanish colleagues can try out biscuits baked in England while I hope he will bring home some Spanish delicacies!

I rarely make Millionaires shortbread – mainly because I love it and would find it very difficult to stop myself continually testing it to make sure it was still ok. However, I made some last week as I knew I had people coming around who could help out. It is rather delicious! And if I cut it into small squares, it may not be quite so bad! I remember making this years ago and burning the caramel – maybe that’s another reason why I haven’t made it regularly. I was subconsciously protecting my saucepans.

Anyway, today has been back to baking for The Earl Grey Tearoom, making them a coffee and walnut cake, a cherry Bakewell cake and a lemon drizzle cake as well as some chocolate cupcakes and gluten free scones. And when I have a free hour or two, I need to look through recipes to find some new cakes to try. Now what would the people of Southborough like to try next?

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A day off from baking

About once a week, I have a day off from baking. Today is such a day – I delivered two cakes to The Earl Grey this morning (Victoria sponge and gluten free Chocolate Fudge cake, for those that are interested) and their next order is for one on Thursday and three on Friday. I have loads to make for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden tomorrow for delivery on Thursday, so will have a long day in the kitchen.

Sometimes, my ‘day off’ is spent shopping for ingredients. I buy most from Sainsbury’s but also go to Waitrose (organic self raising flour, sugar) and Lidl (dark chocolate, limes, mascarpone and nuts). Going to three different shops does take time but I like the quality of the ingredients I use.

Sometimes, I make preserves instead. My latest is a new batch of lime marmalade which still needs labelling.

This afternoon, I am making a batch of Granola to see me through breakfast for the next month or so. Chopping the fruit takes a little time but it is worth it – toasted oats, seeds and bran with honey and groundnut oil, with dates, apricots, sultanas and toasted hazelnuts, which I have with yoghurt and fresh fruit.

Tonight I need to make 4 trays of Rocky Road so my cake tins are ready for baking tomorrow. This isn’t baking as it just requires melting, chopping and mixing followed by overnight in the fridge to set.

And then there is supper …. possibly Lebanese spinach and chickpeas, recipe courtesy of Riverford, followed by ironing (not my favourite job!).

So even on a day off from baking, there is plenty of cooking going on!

Thank you for reading.

Which is your favourite?

These two cakes have been safely delivered to the Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough today. Which would you choose?

First, there is a Red Velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream icing to go with the cocoa flavoured red sponge, kept moist using sunflower oil and buttermilk.

Or there is a white chocolate and raspberry cake with raspberries and white chocolate baked in the sponge, iced with mascarpone and white chocolate and topped with freeze dried raspberries.

We are always looking to add new cakes to the choices available – what flavour would you like to see? Cherry and coconut? Or perhaps a chocolate mocha cake? What about cakes made with vegetables such as beetroot, courgette or parsnip?

Come along to the Tearoom, which is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 4pm, and let us know which cake you would like to see available.

Keep baking

I have always enjoyed making cakes and love receiving positive feedback from people who have enjoyed eating them.

Last year, I made over 350 cakes, more than 100 cupcakes and 18 traybakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. The favourites there are a Victoria sponge, carrot and mascarpone, coffee and walnut, gluten free chocolate fudge, lemon drizzle, coconut and lime, white chocolate and raspberry, cherry Bakewell and blueberry and lemon. I also made 46 gluten free chocolate cakes, 42 trays of Rocky Road and 36 traybakes for The Riverhill Himalayan Garden near Sevenoaks. Around Christmas, the focus switched to Christmas cake and Panforte – and all the time, I have been making chutneys, jams, marmalades and jellies with fresh locally picked fruit or dried fruit.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping stock of the basic ingredients so I don’t have to go shopping every time a cake is ordered. So rather than buying eggs by the dozen, I usually buy 36 a week and some weeks, even this isn’t enough! I used about 1800 eggs last year, or 300 boxes of 6. I also have to keep stock of different types of flour (plain, self raising, rice, gluten free plain and gluten free self raising) and sugar (caster, golden caster, light soft brown, light muscovado, dark muscovado, Demerara and icing) not to mention baking powder and gluten free baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, desiccated coconut, lemons, limes and oranges. I rarely have an empty fridge or larder!

If you want a cake made for an occasion, please contact me as I am happy to help. You can contact me via this blog, or through Facebook or Instagram and we can discuss timing and price. I have a good selection of cake tins but most are 8″ round (with a few 7″ round) or any size square or rectangle (as I have a multi size cake tin, up to 12″ square). Any recipe can be resized based on the number of eggs used.

Thank you for reading.

Gluten free alternative Christmas cake

I have been making this Panforte for a few years but have slightly changed the recipe so it is now gluten free. It is also dairy free and egg free, but it contains honey so isn’t vegan.

It contains dried apricots, figs, candied peel, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and ground almonds and has cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to give it a wonderful Christmas flavour and scent.

I normally make them in two sizes – 300g (£6) and 800g (£12) – but can also make a larger 1200g (£18) one if required.

I have a Open House session on Thursday 6 December between 2pm and 8pm in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells (other dates and times to be advised) or you can contact me via Facebook or this blog to place an order.

Thank you for reading.

Happy Christmas!

Autumn baking

I am always on the lookout for new cake recipes and when I saw this one, I thought it looked good.

It is an apple sponge made with dark soft brown sugar, grated apple and apple juice, topped with a toffee sauce and baked apple slices. I haven’t tasted it yet but have already been asked to make another two for The Earl Grey Tearoom so it must have been popular with the customers!

When I make cakes, I try to make as much as possible myself including the strawberry jam for the Victoria sponge and the parsnip crisps on the honeyed roast parsnip cake. So when the toffee apple cake called for apple crisps, I decided to make my own. This is when a Rayburn comes into its own, drying fruit at a low temperature. This works fine if you remember you have left them in the oven – unfortunately, one batch were left in overnight and ended up rather dark and a second batch went the same way this morning when I was trying to hurry! Luckily a third batch were fine and the cake was safely delivered this morning.

I hope I won’t be making that mistake again!

Autumn harvest

With fruit continuing to ripen earlier than the last few years, this week is becoming my ‘Processing Damsons’ week.

My other half loves Victoria plums and is very happy picking huge quantities of them but he prefers to eat them as they are. So, last Sunday, we went to our local pick your own fruit farm and picked a few pounds to keep him happy. Some were ripe, but most needed an extra week.

We also found a few Damson trees with lots of ripe fruit, so picked about 30 pounds!

This week, I am making loads of Damson chutney, Damson cheese and various other Damson recipes to use these small delicious plums. These should be available to buy in the run up to Christmas as well as at the Chiddingstone Castle Country Fair on Sunday 9 September, along with other preserves that I have been making.

I’d better get back to my preserving pan!

The hot summer

I went fruit picking this week as I wanted to make more redcurrant jelly and blackcurrant jam. Even though we went early in the day, it was still very hot – the blackcurrants were significantly smaller but still have that lovely concentrated flavour.

Having picked the fruit, I then spent the following day making the jelly and jam – perhaps not the best job to be doing on such a hot day! However, I have 18 jars of Spiced Redcurrant Jelly and 22 jars of Blackcurrant Jam ready to be labelled and then they will be available to buy.

Other fruits seem to be ripening earlier than the last couple of years (I made redcurrant jelly in the middle of August the last two years) – I have seen blackberries in the hedgerows already looking ready to be picked – so I think my preserving pan will be getting lots of use in the coming weeks.

Enjoy your summer 🌞

A change of emphasis

About a year ago, I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. To begin with, I made just Victoria sponges, then we added carrot cake, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cakes. Numbers have increased as their business goes from strength to strength and most weeks I am baking at least eight cakes plus some flapjacks or butterscotch brownies.

New favourites include lemon and blueberry, white chocolate and raspberry and a cherry Bakewell cake. I love trying out new recipes so it is always fun being set a new challenge by Roz and the team. Some recipes need tweaking so they produce a three layer cake, some are adapted after tasting to produce something that the customers will enjoy. Some have to be translated from American cups to metric but with my trusty balance scales, electronic scales, measuring spoons and calculator, anything can be done. I just have to remember to write everything down so I only have to calculate it once.

Since mid-March, I have also been making some cakes for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden. They mainly order gluten free chocolate fudge cakes, gluten free cocoa, courgette and pistachio cakes, Rocky Road and traybakes in a variety of flavours including white chocolate & raspberry, blueberry & Demerara, pear & hazelnut and plum & almond.

In addition, I occasionally make other cakes for special orders such as birthdays.

This increase in cake production has kept me busy but I am still trying to find time to keep up with preserve making, building up stocks of marmalade, chutney, jam and jelly to see me through to Christmas and making the most of seasonal produce like elderflowers, by making cordial. The delicious soft fruit season is starting so I will be making the most of as many different fruits as I can, including them in my baking as well as preserving them for the months and years ahead.