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.
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.
In an exciting new venture, I am now baking some cakes for a local business The Earl Grey Tearoom, in Southborough.
So far, I have made them a carrot cake with mascarpone icing (left) and two Victoria sponges with butter cream icing and jam. I have also supplied them with some spiced almond and pistachio biscotti – great for dunking in your coffee or tea!
I hope this venture will continue for a long time – it is great for Southborough to have an independent tearoom and I love the fact I can make a cake and deliver it on foot! I must also admit, I have missed not baking cakes regularly. There is something I find relaxing about mixing together ingredients to produce a (hopefully!) light sponge cake and then decorating it. The very hot weather has made the mixing quite problematic but hopefully by the end of the week, as temperatures return to near normal, cake mixes will go back to the right consistency. Since my youngest went off to University, I can’t justify baking anything for just me. My neighbours have become my testing ground so if you see me crossing Prospect Road with plates of cake or biscuit, you know I am experimenting again.
Stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent and is the traditional day to make Christmas cakes or puddings so they have time to mature and the fruit can absorb the brandy (or rum, if you prefer).
Over the years, I have varied the fruits I include in my cake but the basic recipe is still the old one my mother gave me many years ago. I chop the dried apricots, prunes, dates, figs, candied peel, cherries and stem ginger and leave them to soak in brandy with the raisins, currants and sultanas for at least 24 hours before adding to the cake mix. I also add freshly chopped nuts, grated nutmeg and ground spices to the flour.
After baking, the cake is wrapped and stored in a tin until just before Christmas. I usually feed it a couple of times with a little more brandy which also helps to keep it moist.
As well as the cake for our family, I can make additional cakes to order if you do not have the time. These can be round or square, in a variety of sizes from 4″ square to 12″ square, from 6″ round to 12″ round. Please contact me if you would like to order one. Prices start from £10 plus delivery.
Here is another cake made with grated courgette – please don’t stop reading now! This one is gluten free as it is made with rice flour and ground pistachio nuts. The sponge contains cocoa powder for a rich, dark chocolate flavour and it is sandwiched together with a cocoa flavoured butter cream. The grated courgette keep the sponge moist and the ground pistachio nuts give it a slight crunch. It seems strange to make a cake with vegetables and then say you can’t tell that they are there but don’t be put off – this is a delicious cake!
I tried out a new recipe yesterday – a courgette and ricotta cake made with gluten-free flour and polenta. The green flecks in the sponge are grated courgette and thyme leaves, while the cake is topped with lemon juice, grated lime zest and thyme leaves. The polenta gives the cake a crunchy texture. This cake will definitely be going onto my list of those to make again.
Last Saturday, I went to Frant Primary School to sell preserves and Christmas food gifts at their Christmas Fair. It was my first opportunity to sell to the general public so I was interested to see how it went. I had 2 chutneys, a jam and a marmalade open to taste as well as samples of Panforte and Christmas cake. It was good to get such positive feedback and I was delighted to sell several jars and cakes.
Then on Sunday, I delivered an order to http://www.southdownscellars.co.uk for their hampers – oatcakes, almonds, biscotti, Panforte, chutneys, mincemeat and compôte. I hope the food will be enjoyed with the excellent wines.
There is still time to order a Christmas cake or a Panforte to enjoy at Christmas and I still have some jars of mincemeat if you want to make your own mince pies. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your requirements.
This is a rich fruit and nut chocolate cake containing hazelnuts, cherries, stem ginger, raisins, dried apricots and amaretti biscuits all coated in dark chocolate and butter. The dark coloured chocolate contrasts with the colour of the fruit giving this cake a jewelled appearance. It sets in the fridge and can be cut into small squares to use as petit fours with coffee or small slices for a rich dessert. The amaretti are wheat and gluten free making this a useful gluten free alternative.
I was asked to make a cake for a friend’s birthday breakfast and made this as it can be eaten with yoghurt and fruit but is not too sweet. It also has the benefit of being gluten free and having no refined sugar added. It uses unsulphured apricots (the dark ones) and ground almonds together with a boiled orange. The cake is topped with orange slices. This also makes a great pudding.