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.

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Even more cake baking

When I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough, they were asking me mainly for Victoria sponges with the occasional carrot and mascarpone or coffee and walnut cake for a change.

This week, I have delivered eight cakes, some flapjacks, rocky road and cookies. New cakes include the Dundee cake, which always used to be my favourite (I love fruit cakes!) and a gingerbread cake made with fresh grated ginger and treacle (which I forgot to photograph so I’ll have to make another!). I think I am getting quicker at making some of these cakes but others take time, such as the gluten free chocolate fudge cake which needs chocolate to be melted and cooled for both the cake and the buttercream icing. However, the smell is divine so I’m happy to make it regularly.

If the supermarkets are analysing my recent shopping habits, they will notice a huge increase in my consumption of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and olive spread. I have also been getting through the baking parchment circles very quickly – a pack of 100 will only last a month now! 

I’m hoping to try out a few new recipes over the next few weeks including some different gluten free cakes. The Great British Bake Off caramel week has inspired me to try that as a flavour although I’m sure mine won’t look as spectacular as some of their creations!

Stir up Sunday


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.

 

Preparations starting early

I have made our Christmas puddings for a number of years. I have tried a few different recipes but prefer this one as it is less sweet, having no additional sugar. It contains raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, cherries and flaked almonds. Vegetable suet and breadcrumbs are mixed in, along with eggs, brandy, Guinness and spices and the puddings are steamed for hours. I will now mature them in a cool dark place until Christmas Day.

We only eat one pudding each year but they last so well that I make and store one for the following year. This year I have made 4 additional small puddings which are available to buy. They each weigh 600g and come in a reusable pot. They will need to be steamed for another 1 ½ – 2 hours and then you can enjoy it with your favourite accompaniment whether it is brandy butter, rum sauce or custard! Each pudding will provide 8-10 servings and costs £10.00.

If you would like to buy one, please email me at toobusytomake@btinternet.com.

 

 

Christmas preparations – cakes and panforte

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I am still taking orders for Christmas cakes and Panforte. All cakes and Panforte are baked to order so if you would like one, please contact me as soon as possible.

The Christmas cakes are made with butter, dark muscovado sugar, organic eggs and flour and a variety of dried fruits that have been soaked in brandy for at least 24 hours, as well as nuts and treacle. The spices used are cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg and mixed spices. The cakes will last well into the New Year and in fact I used this recipe for our wedding cake and we used a layer at the christening of our daughter 5 years after the cake was baked – it was however, re-iced!

The Panforte are made with honey, soft brown sugar, dried figs and apricots, candied peel, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, ground almonds, flour, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg.

Both can be made in a variety of sizes but these are the main ones offered :

£8.00 Panforte 800g

£10.00 Panforte 1200g

£15.00 Christmas cake 6″ round or 5″ square

£20.00 Christmas cake 9″ round or 8″ square

£30.00 Christmas cake 11″ round or 10″ square

Cakes can be covered with marzipan and icing for an additional cost – please contact me to discuss details on 01892 523912 or 07787 963896

Christmas preparations – the cake

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Before I make my Christmas cake, I like to soak the fruit in brandy for a few days. This helps to plump up the raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes, dates, apricots, figs, cherries, candied peel, cranberries and stem ginger. I normally make a 9″ or 23cm cake for our family which will last us until next Easter – over 2lb of fruit goes into this cake.

Stir up Sunday is 22 November this year, so this bowl of dried fruit will be perfectly ready to add to the rest of the ingredients and baked. I will then feed it with brandy over the next month before covering it with marzipan and icing it just before Christmas.

Christmas preparations

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I have made my own mincemeat for 30 years. I think the flavour is much better and I know exactly what ingredients have been used – I can reduce the amount of sugar and use good quality dried fruits. I use raisins, sultanas, currants and apricots and lots of brandy! This gives the mincemeat a jewel-like sparkle and gives the kitchen a delicious aroma. I usually use vegetable suet so it is suitable for vegetarians.

As well as using in mince pies, my family like it mixed with the apple in an apple crumble, used to stuff and bake in apples and in a cake. It lasts well if kept in a cool dark cupboard – up to 12 months. I keep the jar in the fridge after opening.

Jars are available to buy for £3.50 each. Please contact me if you would like to order.