Archive | July, 2012

How to have an Olympics party

30 Jul


Put on your union jack* tights, paint your nails red white and blue**, bake a red white and blue** layer cake and write 2012 on the top with star sprinkles, bake vanilla cupcakes and ice with a red white and blue** swirl. Pour yourself a gin & tonic (cucumber garnish optional), settle into your seat for a crackers and very British opening ceremony. Party, done!

union jack tights

red white blue manicure

red white blue swirl icing cupcake

red white and blue layer cake

Red, White and Blue** swirl icing
Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes

125g butter, very soft
250g icing sugar
food colouring

Blend the butter and icing together in a food processor until just combined. Split equally between 3 bowls and add small amounts of food colouring until you have your desired colour, making sure to fully mix the colour through the icing.

Get 4 icing bags and snip the ends off each. Put the 3 colours into 3 separate icing bags. Then insert your chosen icing nozzle into the remaining icing bag, and then put the 3 full icing bags into the one with the nozzle. It’s best to put all 3 bags in at once so they fit equally inside the main bag.

You’re now ready to pipe your desired pattern on your cupcakes. A word of caution – red white and blue in a swirl looks remarkably like a well-known brand of toothpaste!

*substitute tights with your national flag here
*substitute the colours of your team here

Getting in a flap

19 Jul

rhubarb almond flapjack

What do you do when you have a vegan colleague visiting your office for the day? Subject them to the latest venture in your quest to find that perfect energy bar, of course! It’s been a while since I tried making a cycling jersey pocket friendly snack, but this weekend me, Mr Cakes, bro-in-law (he of Dave Johnson’s Photography), and a couple of other chums will be cycling around 200 miles along the English-Welsh border. We need snacks to sustain us.

rhubarb almond flapjack squares

So, a test. Flapjack; tasty, consistancy holds together but isn’t rock hard, and suitable to feed to your vegan colleague. No pressure. Oh, and what about that rhubarb that you have in the fridge to use up? Okay then.

These fellas aren’t half bad. They’re just the right amount of gooey and chewy, not hard, not crumbly, and they taste good. Quite tangy with the rhubarb and just the right amount of sweetness.

A classy pocket contender indeed.

rhubarb almond flapjack square

Rhubarb and Almond Flapjacks (vegan)
Makes 9 squares

125g porridge oats
100g stewed rhubarb
25g flaked almonds
75g coconut oil
100g soft brown sugar
50g agave syrup

1. Mix together the rhubarb, almonds and oats and leave to stand while you grease a 20cm square cake tin with a little coconut oil. Line with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C

2. Melt together the coconut oil, sugar and golden syrup gently in a pan. You want the sugar to just melt, but not boil. Mix together with the oat mixture.

3. Spread the mixture into the cake tin and level with the back of your spoon.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before marking into squares using a sharp knife – do this while the flapjacks are still in the tin. Allow to cool completely and set. Then cut and eat!

Rain stops play, but not the awards

16 Jul

I was hoping to tell you all about my swim in the Thames from Hampton Court to Kingston today. I was going to tell you how, after 7 months of swimming coaching and weekly pond swimming visits to the Kenwood Ladies Pond with Mog (who won the wedding bake off, remember?) paid off. I was hoping to recount race perfection, an easy 200 metre warm up before a good (for me) paced race for the rest of the 2.25 mile swim. I would have told you how I didn’t panic in the open water and swam front crawl the whole way. But I can’t, because the Hampton Court Swim I was due to take part in on Sunday was cancelled. Bah humbug!

Thank heavens, then, for not one but two “One Lovely Blog” nominations that came my way last week.

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award

The first was from Amy at Snazzy Biscuits, and the second from Ester at Pies & Cookies. Thanks ladies, you rock!

With nomination comes great responsiblity, here’s what I happens next…

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you – yup
  • Paste the award image on your blog, anywhere. – mmm hmm, in triplicate
  • Tell us 7 facts about yourself.
    1. I was christened on Christmas Day.
    2. I can play 3 musical instruments “officially”, and many more unofficially.
    3. I have the old Channel 4 Tour de France theme tune as my phone ring tone.
    4. My surname isn’t really Cakes…
    5. I don’t really like chocolate cake.
    6. I’m a pedant, or I would be if I were clever enough.
    7. I can swim 100 metres in 1m50s
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you like for this award.
    1. Dave Johnson’s Photography– Dave is my brother-in-law, cyclist, and photographer. His photography blog is a bit of alright! (and he did the wedding photos for me & Mr.Cakes)
    2. Carla Kirste – Carla is an amazing seamstress, and she made my wedding dress!
    3. Wild Woman Swimming – One woman’s wild swimming adventures in the west country, I wish I was there!
    4. Rhubarb & Rose – the source of my cake pop fascination.
    5. 10k Marathon Swim – if you like open water swimming, read this. Inspiration.
    6. Planet Byde – Rosemary’s amazing tales of adventure racing, more inspiration.
    7. Skinny Freezer Meals – some yummy eats right here.
    8. San Diego Fitness Diva – Asia is on a journey to completing her first Ironman triathlon – go girl! Even more inspiration.
    9. Avocado and Basil– hummus and black cherry jam in a sandwich? If anyone is going to convince me, it’s this blog…
    10. The Bubbly Baker – adventures in baking? Yes please!
    11. The Thankful Heart – more delightful cooking. Thank you.
    12. 400 days til 40 – one blogger’s quest to figure out life by age 40.
    13. London Review of Breakfasts – the most important meal of the day? Too right.
    14. All Seasons Cyclist – helpful advice to keep you cycling all year. Much needed in this biblical summer weather.
    15. Pitfield London – cakes, eats, gorgeous homewares. And all on my doorstep. I die!
  • Post a comment on each of your nominees’ blogs telling them about the nomination. – consider it done!

Well done nominees. If you fancy taking part, please do. If not, no worries.

And now, back to business. Swimming. Oh what could have been! If only it were still May, sunny, and Mr Cakes and I were back in Padstow swimming in the Doom Bar (and later downing pints of it…) And this weekend’s bread – a Sour Cream sandwich loaf, Dan Lepard style.

doom bar swimming padstow

Dan Lepard Sour cream Bread

Green and Hairy Jam

12 Jul

Gooseberry Jam in Kilner Jar

When I was little I had a paperback called The Green and Hairy Joke Book, full of jokes exclusively about gooseberries. My favourite? What’s green and hairy on the inside and white and squishy on the outside? An inside out gooseberry. Ha-ha!

Gooseberry jam is so easy to do, it virtually makes itself. This is no joke, it’s because the gooseberries are naturally high in pectin which is the natural gelling agent essential for a succesful jam.

fresh goosberries

boiling gooseberries

gooseberry jam

Rude health loaf with gooseberry jam

Gooseberry Jam Recipe

300g topped & tailed gooseberries
300g granulated sugar
50ml water

Place the gooseberries and water into a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for about 15 mins until the fruit is tender. Add the sugar and continue to cook slowly for a further 15 mins until all the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up the heat to high and rapidly boil the sugar and fruit for about another 10 minutes, maybe less. At this point, test if your jam has set (although its gooseberry, it will have set, I promise you!)

To test for a setting point have a chilled plate ready. Spoon a little jam onto the chilled plate, push the jam with a spoon or finger and if the skin wrinkles then its set. If not boil for a further 5 minutes.

Leave to sit for 10 minutes, then decant into sterilised jam jars. This quantity makes 1x 450g/1lb jar and can easily be scaled to the amount of fruit you have. Use equal quantities of fruit & sugar, with 10ml water per 60g fruit. Spread liberally on, say, your home-made Rude Health loaf and scoff quickly.

Rude awakening

9 Jul

Rude Health Morning Glory Bread

Porridge is my favourite breakfast, I could eat it every day – even in the height of summer (especially this november-esque summer we’re having right now.) At the weekend I feel obliged to have something else – a bacon sandwich perhaps, or a couple of poached eggs on toast. Tasty breakfast fodder, but just not porridge.

rude health morning glory

rude health morning glory

On most Sundays during the summer Mr Cakes and I have some kind of sporting pursuit planned – a training cycle ride, a triathlon, or the Hampton Court Swim we have planned for Sunday this week. The best thing about these weekend physical jerks? We get to eat porridge for breakfast!

Rude loaf before baking

The king of porridge is Rude Health’s Morning Glory Porridge, a blend of 5 grains and 5 seeds. It’s good for you, and deeelicious. I love it, so much so that I decided to bake it into a bread, so that even on the bacon sarnie/poached egg days I could still get my oats.

Rude loaf after baking

Rude Awakening Loaf

75g Rude Health morning glory porridge, plus extra for sprinkling on top
450g strong white flour
100g strong wholemeal flour
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp brown sugar
1½ tsp instant dry yeast
50g unsalted butter, melted
Oil, for kneading
Milk, for brushing

Mix the oats with 375ml boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes, until the mixture has cooled slightly (but still warm) and looks like porridge. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in another bowl, then add the porridge mix and the melted butter and mix well. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Then use Dan Lepard’s tried and tested 10 second kneading technique – oil your hands and work surface, knead the dough on it for 10 seconds, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice at 10 minute intervals. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea-towel and leave for 30 minutes. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, roll up and tuck the ends underneath the loaf shaping into a bloomer. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover and leave for 90 minutes until risen by half.

Preheat the oven t0 220C. Brush the top of your loaf with milk and then sprinkle on some more Rude Health morning glory porridge. Cut some slashes on top of your loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200C and bake for a further 20 minutes. The loaf will sound hollow when you tap the bottom when it’s done

Eat with bacon, eggs, or maybe some home-made gooseberry jam (recipe to follow soon). Oatally brilliant!

Rude health loaf

Rude health loaf with gooseberry jam

Good things come to those who wait

5 Jul

Single Guinness Cup Cake

Remember the chocolate guinness mud cake that came 2nd in the wedding bake off? Well, ever since that post I’d been thinking about how good it was! I had to have it again, and so decided to convert Nigella’s recipe to one for cupcakes. How perfect do they look? Like little sweet pints of Guinness. They taste the business too, even a few days after baking when they magically become even more squidgy and muddy.

Guinness Cup Cakes

iced guinness cupcakes

plain guinness cupcake

guinness cake iced

Good thing cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

1. Make a batch of Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake batter and icing. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C
2. Line 2x 12 hole muffin tins with muffin cases. Pour the cake batter into a measuring jug and then divide between the cases.
3. Bake the cupcakes, 1 tray at a time for 15 minutes per tray. The cakes will still feel quite squishy and soft when you press them, but as long as a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, they are cooked.
4. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe the icing onto the top of the cake in a lovely swirl.
5. Batch them up in pretty tins and share with your friends!

cake boxes

Final tip – these will work best if you use a muffin pan and muffin cases. A bun tray doesn’t do these fellas justice.

Rhubarb’s the star

2 Jul


I ♥ rhubarb. Absolutely love it, the fresh, ever so fruity smell of the stuff and that tangy suck your teeth taste. I remember, as a nipper, plucking thick stalks of rhubarb from the garden to eat raw & dipped in a cup of sugar. Delicious!


Naturally, raw rhubarb isn’t to everyone’s taste – least of all Mr Cakes, so these days I prefer to stew said veg (yes, it’s a vegetable, not a fruit) with some sugar just to take the edge off. Its simple enough to do, just trim the tops and tails of the rhubarb stalks and give them a rinse. Chop into chunks and put in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and the same of sugar (more, or less to taste!) Take heed of Nigel Slater’s advice regarding the receptacle you use … “Only heatproof glass, enamelled cast iron and stainless steel are suitable materials for cooking utensils that come into contact with the oxalic acid present in this pretty vegetable. Simmer your pink stalks in an aluminium pan and you will end up with a seriously nasty metallic-tasting – if not downright poisonous – pudding.”


What you can see here is a rhubarb and star anise steamed sponge pudding. Technically this is not a bake, I hope you don’t mind! The combination of aniseedy star anise and the sweet & sour rhubarb has to be tried – the star anise almost sweetens the tangy rhubarb.


Rhubarb and Star Anise Steamed Sponge Puddings

Makes 4 individual puddings

300g stewed & sweetened rhubarb
100g golden caster sugar
100g butter
2 tsp ground star anise
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour

1. Grease 4 ramekins or small pudding basins and spoon the stewed rhubarb into the dishes.
2. Cream together the butter and the sugar, and when light and fluffy beat in the eggs 1 at a time, adding a half of the star anise and vanilla as you do so. Finally mix in the flour.
3. Divide the sponge mix between the dishes, don’t worry if the sponge mix sinks into the rhubarb. This makes the pudding all the better!
4. Cover the dishes with foil and secure with string, steam for 30 minutes.
5. Eat and enjoy! We had ours with custard, another classic combo!


I ground my own star anise – just pop a few whole stars into a coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. You can sieve out any larger woody bits that you don’t want in your cake. And a word about the vanilla extract, I like Taylor & Colledge Vanilla Bean Paste – almost as good as using a fresh pod.