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Slate and Soya

23 May

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First triathlon of the year for the boys, first spectator event for me. It was the Snowdonia Slateman in and around Llanberis last weekend. A quick dip in the icy Llyn Padarn, an undulating cycle round and about, followed by a sunny sprint up and down the local slate quarry. It did look fun, but I had to settle for ringing my chain reaction cycles cow-bell for all I was worth to cheer on the athletes. Well done one and all!

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Seeing as I was in a support role I provided baked goods for the weekend, a pear & chocolate upside down pudding to fortify the troops the evening before, and the delectable Dan Lepard’s soya and linseed loaf for breakfast. Mr Bakes and I have been big fan of Vogel’s soya and linseed bread for many a moon, until we discovered we could make our own, with Dan’s recipe. Seriously, if you like Vogel, you’ll love this. Try it!

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All these swims that I’ve swum

24 Jan

Snowy London Fields Lido

The swims of 2012 can be categorised in many ways. The cold ones, the really cold ones, the flippin freezing ones, river, sea, lake, long, short, salty, crystal clear, murky, races, training sessions, wetsuited, swim suited, (sadly no birthday suited), quick dip, marathon, honeymooning, even pre-wedding. But each one can all be filed under the following; fun, revitalising, invigorating and addictive.

hive beach wedding swim

Hive beach, Dorset. Pre-wedding, swim suited, quick dip, salty, freezing.

doom bar swimming padstow

Doom Bar, Padstow. Honeymooning, wetsuited, salty, training, very cold.

Treyarnon Bay

Treyarnon Bay tidal pool. Honeymooning, wetsuited, crystal clear, salty, very cold.

Hampstead Heath Ladies Pond

Hampstead Heath ladies pond. Swim suited, frequent, leisurely, cold.

Ouse Nice Tri Swim

Ouse River, St Neots. Wetsuited, race, murky, be-swanned, lurgy filled. Thanks to Glidergoth for use of the photo.

Lake Bala Tri Swim

Lake Bala. Race, wetsuited, twice in 2 days.

Llangollen Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon, Llangollen. Flippin freezing, wetsuited followed by swimsuited, crystal crystal clear, deep.

tooting bec lido

Tooting Bec Lido. Wetsuited and/or swimsuited, training, Thorpe watching.

Dart 10k swim start

River Dart, Totnes to Dittisham. Very cold, wetsuited, race, marathon, salty, murky, choppy, squelchy.

St Margaret's bay swimming

St Margerets Bay, nr Dover. Swim suited, quick dip, channel aspirational.

Marlow swim

River Thames, nr Marlow. Wetsuited, race, busy.

Thames Hampton Court

River Thames, Hampton Court to Kingston, very very very fast current, wetsuited, race.

Snowman tri swim

Lake Mymbyr, Capel Curig. Race, wetsuited, flippin freezing, busy. Thanks again to Dave Johnson for the photo.

What does 2013 hold? More of the same, I hope!

Swimming or Flying?

9 Oct

Thames Hampton Court

Another weekend, another postponed race catch up. This time, the Speedo Open Water Swim Series Hampton Court Swim. Mr Cakes and I were reluctant to leave the cosy taxi that took us to the chilly, misty riverbank by Hampton Court Palace. The sun that warmed our skin pre-Dart seemed far, far away. We were told the water was a frosty 12 degrees, and we watched as the elite wave took to the water with gasps and many a sharp intake of breath.

“Better do some star jumps to warm up”, I said to Mr. Cakes. Still, we needn’t have worried – we weren’t going to be in the water for that long. We’d both put down an estimated finish time of 80 minutes, putting us slap bang in the middle of the field in wave 6. Pah! 80 minutes? Try half that!

Hampton Court Swim 2012

The current, thanks to more rain, was fast and strong. We entered the murky water and could feel it pulling us towards Kingston – the race finish. After the usual bunching at the start I found myself a clear bit of water to swim in, as close to the centre of the river as I could get away with, just shy of the kayaks and buoys lining the route. I quickly gave up trying to work out how far I’d swum – the first large orange buoy said 800m, then the second 3200m, the third nothing. Instead I got on with enjoying the fresh chill of the water on my face, and the rush of swimming as fast as an olympian. Just under 40 minutes after the start klaxon, I sailed through the finish gantry, hotly pursued by Mr Cakes.

A PB to be proud of, perhaps. A PB that’s going to be hard to beat? Absolutely! Thanks Human Race, another great event.

ps – check out these videos on youtube, they really show how fast the water was flowing!

Shoreditch-on-Sea

2 Oct

field cycling

Cycling means many things to many people. Usually, to me it means getting to work or racing as fast as I can. But this weekend it meant a leisurely jaunt through countryside and along coast in lovely, sunny Kent. Off came my usual racing slicks, on with the knobbly jobs. Perfect for the off-road adventure ahead for me and Mog.

cake, huts, art & paddling

The adventure began at St. Pancras station, with the pair of us trying to navigate the escalator with our heavy, baggage laden bicycles with one hand, and hot coffee with the other – possibly the most difficult part of the trip. It took both of us, the chap who got on the escalator behind us and the train conductor to get us, our bikes, and our coffees on to the train safely.

Once in Canterbury, we made our way to Whitstable on the wonderfully named Crab and Winkle Way, or at least we did once we found the blue signs that would mark our route. Without Mr Cakes and his magic bicycle sat nav, this proved difficult! Then Mog got a puncture after only a few miles. Helpful passer-by #3 told us that Herbert’s Cycles in Whitstable was the place to go for help, a small but perfectly formed bike shop that sorted us out in half an hour. Of course, we both do know how to fix a puncture, but why DIY when you can sit and drink coffee while someone else DIFY (does it for you)? From there the journey was easy – just follow the coast until we get tired, or the sun sets. Day 1 was the latter, day 2 the former.

condor, brompton, herberts bike shop

We only had 2 days away, and just 90km of cycling, but we certainly packed in plenty of stuff. Firstly, lets talk cake. There were Mog’s lemon drizzle buns on the train; Granny Ann’s bread pudding bought from a bake sale on the High Street in Whitstable; plum tart from Age & Sons in Ramsgate; and chocolate & beetroot brownies, strawberry muffins and tablet in Deal. Add in a few local ales and now you’re talking.

We saw castles and beach huts a plenty, a wind farm that followed us for miles, something that resembled Britain’s Got Talent in Herne Bay, heard the Noel McCalla trio, avoided about a million dogs and children, cycled on gravel and through muddy fields, failed to see any artwork at the new Turner Gallery in Margate (closed for exhibition changeover), played in the interactive (childrens?) exhibition in the new Turner Gallery in Margate, drank Gadd’s Ale in the Charles Dickens Pub in Broadstairs, drank café au lait at a French cafe in Sandwich, and generally had a ball.

St Margaret's bay swimming

Oh, and there was swimming. We were by the coast, of course there was swimming. I was consumed by the thought of it. We tried on day 1, but the sun was setting and we feared getting too cold. So, instead we settled for a quick paddle in one of Margate’s tidal pools (yes, Margate has two! Lucky Margate!)

We spent the night in Ramsgate, and a chap to whom we got chatting gave us his tip for the best local swimming spot. We got up early and walked along the cliff top to said spot. The tide was out, and there seemed to be some kind of dog/vagrant party going on right in front of the water. We chickened out, again.

But the best was yet to come. According to Wikipedia, channel swimmers and submarine telephone cables start from St Margaret’s Bay, and it was on the route for day two. Finally, salty swimming salvation. Mog watched and snapped and I stripped to my cossie and ran in for a brief breaststroke in the chop. I thought about what it must be like to embark on 22 miles of swimming from right here. Not today, I thought, and out I ran to warm clothing and the rest of the journey to Dover!

I can’t leave you without a recipe. Mog made us lemon buns – why not try Nigel Slater’s Demerara lemon cake, split into 12 muffin cases and baked for about 20 minutes.

Dart Marathon Swim

25 Sep

Dart 10k swim cap

This weekend Mr Cakes, a handful of chums and I travelled to deepest darkest Devon for the Dart 10k swim. Some of us were swimming, some of us were supporting, and all of us were having a ruddy good time! The swim started from Totnes, and as luck would have it the swimming Thompson Twins* Dad lives just round the corner. From the moment we arrived we were treated like swimming kings and queens – an especially designed lentil bake for dinner, with a large glass of red. What better preparation for the marathon swim awaiting us?

Dart 10k swim start

Saturday morning was a crisp, chilly yet sunny affair but by the time we wetsuited up and lined up for the safety briefing, the sun was out and warming us up nicely. Good job, as when we entered the water to begin swimming one by one, boy did it feel cold even in said wetsuit! Still, a few hundred metres later and my head, hands and feet had acclimatised and I hit my stride. Next stop feeding station #1 where I was hotly pursued by none other than Mr. Cakes. We were hoping for flapjacks, but we got jelly sweets and energy drink. Sugary treats that kept us going for the next wee while until feeding station #2, which appeared much quicker that I was expecting. They told us we were at 7k already, after only 2 hours and 20 minutes. Fast, I thought, I didn’t know that Thompson Twin junior had already finished after 2 hours and 20 minutes swimming…

Only 3k to go. No problemo, I thought, but my body – or maybe my mind, thought differently. While Mr. Cakes was off in swimming euphoria, I struggled to find my rhythm and dawdled around combining breast stroke with trying not to drag my fingers through the mud and avoiding those around me standing up in the squishy dark stuff. 3 hours and 30 minutes after those first breath-taking few strokes, and I emerged from the water – a marathon swimmer. Slower than the rest of my number, but happy none the less.

Plum and Walnut cake

There must have been cake? But of course! Our generous hosts laid on a Devonshire Cream tea as soon as we arrived back from our aquatic adventure, although I went clotted cream followed by jam – which may well be Cornish.

I couldn’t resist baking for the event either. Nigel Slater’s Plum & Walnut Cake was the order of the day. I used pretty blush pink Victoria Plums, and a 20cm cake tin – the cake took about 1 hour to bake. Tasted pretty good, too.

*Not strictly twins, just siblings. But twins sounds better.
+Many thanks to Dr. Thompson for the snaps of our beautiful blue swim caps, and the red lot entering the river.

Marlow High

29 Aug

At last, a race that I can tell you about. The Speedo Marlow 3k swim, in the river Thames. After what can only be described as biblical weather on Saturday, Mr Cakes and I woke up to sun – lots of sun on Sunday morning. Hurrah, a race! We said, and off we set with Mr Bone to lovely Marlow for a lovely (long) swim.

Remember what I said about the Hampton Court Swim? That 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. Well, I kind of can. I did swim front crawl the whole way, didn’t freak out when my face went into the dark, murky chilled water. For me, this is a first and an achievement to be celebrated.

The race itself was very well organised, all waves set off on time. As usual, the boys set off without me, but there were lots of lovely ladies to chat to before taking the plunge.

Swimming 3k takes time, especially with a strong current taking you back half a stroke for every one you take, but that just means more time to enjoy the journey (nearly 90 minutes of fun on my case)

So after all that, you must be hungry?Will bread pudding topped with nectarines do you? Okay then!

Nectarine Bread & Butter Pudding

Nectarine Bread & Butter Pudding
Serves 4

Ingredients
200ml whole milk
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
8 slices stale tiger bread (Gail’s Pain de Mie is my fave)
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 nectarines, 1 chopped into small chunks & 1 sliced into wedges

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/gas mark 4. Whisk together the milk, cream, vanilla, eggs and caster sugar and set aside. Butter the slices of bread and cut each slice in half.

Layer half the bread into a 2 pint pie dish, overlapping neatly (!) and cover with the chopped nectarine. Pour a little over half of the milky mixture over the bread and nectarines and leave to sit for 20 minutes.

Layer the rest of the bread on top, pour on the rest of the custard and finally top with the wedges of nectarine and sprinkle with the brown sugar. If you have any butter left over dot this on top.

Bake for 35 minutes, leave to cool ever so slightly before tucking in. It’s also pretty good cold. You do forfeit a bit of the usual crunchy topping with the fruit on top, if that’s a deal breaker just put all the nectarine in between the two layers of bread, and sprinkle the brown sugar directly on the top layer of bread. Please feel free to substitute any fruit for the nectarine.

L.ove I.t D.ip O.utdoors

16 Aug

Come sun…

sunny london fields lido

…or snow

snowy london fields lido

You can’t beat swimming outdoors. London Fields Lido heats the water to 25 degrees year round, so there’s no excuse to dive right in.

We’re very lucky in London, we have a shoal of outdoor swimming opportunities, and you can even choose between heated, non-heated, pool or pond (although I’ve yet to find a heated pond…imagine that!)

tooting bec lido

Tooting Bec is surely big daddy of the lido scene. 91 metres of uninterrupted, naturally chilled swimming space. A-mazing.

ian thorpe tooting bec lido

Especially when the Thorpedo decides to pop in for a masterclass. Thanks Ian!

kenwood bathing pond

But what could be better than a dip in one of Hampstead Heath’s bathing ponds? Perfect after a log day’s work on a sunny late summer evening, especially when followed by a big slice of cake from one of the many local hostelries.

Here’s a handy guide to all the Lidos in London

East End Olympic Triathlon

6 Aug

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Swim

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Bike

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Run

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Pie and Mash.

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

Wedding Bake Off, Part 3

25 Jun

And the winner is…well, it’s the CARDAMOM POND CAKE, of course!

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Look at it! What a cake, it’s got us on it – Mr & Mrs Cakes, swimming in a pond. It’s too perfect. And the little flower and reed details. You’ve got me, I love it. Full marks for appearance! But remember, we scored the cakes on creativity and taste too. So, okay, creativity – hmmm, yep. Not bad. It’s a cake that looks like a pond with us swimming in it, quite creative. And it tastes of cardamom. Not only that it tastes ruddy fantastic! Now, I’ve tried making a cardamom cake before. It didn’t taste much like cardamom. Thank goodness Mog (Symondsbury Bake Off 2012 champ) was willing to share her secrets with us.

Let me tell you how the conversation went –

Mrs Cakes: Can I have your Cardamom Cake recipe? I want to blog it..
Mog: Sure! It’s basic cake with c.10 (too many?) crushed cardamom stirred in while adding the eggs. A lucky variation on (as the boy terms it) “just cake” or plain sponge.
Mrs Cakes: Just cake? Love it!
Mog: Sometimes he adds an expletive in the middle, hence my search for ways to enliven it!
Mrs Cakes: Defo the right amount of cardamom. 10 pods or 10 seeds?
Mog: Pods. Seeds=too weak, packets=too strong.
Mrs Cakes: You’re so smart!

Here is my approximation of the cake

Ingredients
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
10 cardamom pods, ground
200g self-raising flour
1-2 tbsp milk

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease and line 2x 20cm round cake tins.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together, and when they become pale and fluffy beat in the eggs 1 at a time adding 1/4 of the ground cardamom with each egg.

3. Gently fold in the flour, you want to achieve a batter that drops off the spoon, so add milk until this is as desired.

4. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown and a skewer stuck into the middle comes out clean.

5. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 mins in the tins, then remove and place on a wire rack.

6. When totally cool, sandwich the cakes together with jam (I think rhubarb would taste perfect with the cardamom, or you could try apricot)

7. If you have a bake-off to enter, cover the cake in icing that looks like a pond with people swimming in it. If not just sprinkle with icing sugar and eat! This is not “just cake” anymore.