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!

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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.

Christmas baking

It is that time of year again. As well as baking cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough (a spiced Victoria sponge cake is the current favourite), I have been making Panforte to sell at various markets and fairs. It is a delicious combination of dried fruit and nuts with honey, sugar and spices. This year, I have been using gluten free flour to make this a gluten free alternative to my traditional Christmas cake.

I make it in three sizes – 300g, 800g and 1200g, and prices are £6, £12 and £17.00

Please contact me as soon as possible if you want to buy one of these. I am accepting orders until December 20th (Wednesday) and will have all orders ready by December 22nd (Friday).

Pumpkin time again

Yesterday I gathered these pumpkins from the field at Four Winds Farm near Bidborough. I will be spending the next few days making them into chutney, soup, cake and other meals – they work well in savoury and sweet recipes.

I know there are pumpkins in the supermarkets but why not support a local farmer and gather them yourselves. It’s a fun half term activity and you can carve a pumpkin for Halloween while enjoying the flesh in your favourite recipes.

Four Winds Farm have pumpkins ready to pick on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October, from 10:00 until 16:00 both days. 

Ingredients and quality


When I started making foods to sell, I was very aware that my prices might seem quite high. However, I hoped that once people had tasted them, they would agree that they were worth it!

Balancing the cost of the ingredients and the selling price has always been tricky. In the same way that supermarkets have loss leaders, I have one or two products that my percentage mark up is greater than others. But then I must add in the increased gas and electricity bills, the cost of packaging and something for my time as well as the cost of the ingredients.

By buying jam jars in bulk, I can keep the unit cost down but I have to store both the empty and full jars. I make all the biscuit packaging so it fits the biscuits I make – so when I am baking for the local Farmers’ Market, I also have to allow extra time to weigh, pack and label all the biscuits I have made. 

I try to use the best quality ingredients I can afford as I believe flavour is so important. I always use organic free range eggs and organic flour, and cakes and biscuits are made with either butter or an olive oil spread. When possible, I pick fruit at a local farm to make my chutneys and jams. Other ingredients like dried fruit and nuts are bought regularly so they are always fresh. I know I could buy cheaper elsewhere, but I want my foods to taste good.

I have also invested in better quality baking tins, a new hand mixer, triple tier cooling racks and loads of baking parchment – ready cut discs are an essential when I am baking in bulk! My trusty Rayburn is great for cake baking but I can’t fill the oven too full as it affects the cooking time. I still have my electric cooker but I rarely use it as I think it dries cakes out too much. My next investment will be a banner to use at Farmers’ Markets and maybe a gazebo and table (although I need to sell a few more cakes and biscuits to be able to afford those!).

I am in this business because I enjoy cooking and I enjoy making foods for others – even when I am finishing labelling biscuits at 2am before a Farmers’ Market! 

I hope that you enjoy eating them!

Summer days ……


This year, the summer holidays started very early in our household. We collected our youngest from university in mid-June and our eldest arrived home from working in Spain at the beginning of July. As no one had any holiday plans, I hastily arranged a family break in Portugal (warm, sunny and very relaxing) but this has meant we were back home at the end of July, having already had our break, with most other people still with their holidays to look forward to. Never mind, we thought. August at home can be lovely – warm, sunny, places to go. However, this has not been the case. 

After the deluge on Wednesday, Thursday had a distinctly autumnal feel to it. The plants in the garden look washed out and battered, as they tend to look in October just before the end of the season. The tomatoes on the plant on my patio are just not ripening. 

I have had a busy time baking cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom – eight cakes and some flapjacks since our return from holiday. As these are freshly baked to order, there is no problem with having leftover cakes to sell. I have also started making more chutney as I delivered another order to Southborough Butchers last week which used up my stock. The autumn fruits are ripening much earlier than the last few years so I ordered two more huge boxes of jam jars ready to be filled with various chutneys – rhubarb & coriander made this week, plum apple & chilli, pear & apple, apricot apple & hazelnut and other flavours to follow over the next couple of weeks and spiced redcurrant jelly, apple & chilli and apple & mint jelly to follow. I have seen cobnuts, rosehips, elderberries, sloes and blackberries already waiting to be picked on my walks in the area. This must be at least 3 weeks earlier than the last few years. I even made a blackberry and apple crumble at the weekend with fruit picked that morning.

When I started ‘Too busy to make’, I hoped it would give me a chance to make foods that I enjoyed making and to sell them to people who would enjoy eating them. Since I have had the regular outlets, this has certainly proved to be the case. I am looking forward to a busy late summer and autumn, making foods to sell at Penshurst, at the Country Fair and Christmas Market at Chiddingstone, at Southborough Butchers and other local outlets.

And more cakes ….

It is always reassuring when you get positive feedback and I have been delighted with the comments I have been getting about the cakes I have made recently for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. 

This week, I have delivered ten more cakes – Victoria sponges, carrot cakes, a coffee and walnut cake and lemon drizzle cakes. After a short break, I will be back baking, hoping to try out some different recipes as well as these popular ones. 

Happy Christmas!

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I have finished making all the food ordered this Christmas and the final deliveries are scheduled. Many thanks to all of you who have bought from me – I hope you enjoy your food and come back in 2017.

Now I can concentrate on Christmas with my family and friends. There are several traditions to observe, like baking mince pies while listening to the Festival of nine lessons and carols on Christmas Eve, a trip to Borough Market to stock up with delicious foodie bits and pieces (including the pilgrimage to Neal’s Yard to select our cheese) and decorating our tree, which is always left until the last minute! I will be taking a couple of weeks off over Christmas and the New Year but will be back testing our new recipes and making new preserves in 2017 – watch this space.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017!