#JanuaryJoy: Sugar and Spice… Gingerbread

It’s perhaps a little festive and in truth I prepared this post before Christmas, but this is a recipe that’s worth sharing and one I’ll undoubtably make again in January so I thought I’d share it. Until I tried this recipe I had never made gingerbread which is odd because 1. I really like it, (just an excuse for thick icing on top!) and 2. I’m also a fan of homemade biscuits. In fact, biscuits are one of my favourite things… apart from cake maybe. 😉

I used this BBC Good Food Gingerbread recipe and some cutters I’ve bought over the years at John Lewis with quite pretty details on them… I particularly love the houses. As with most recipes I feel are worthy of sharing here, this one was super easy. The dough came together quickly and although I think I over-did them slightly as I like gingerbread on the chewy side, they were really delicious. Particularly with that extra thick icing. 😉

I made them one afternoon before Christmas and spent a perfect maternity leave afternoon decorating them with a friend. Let me know if you give the recipe a go and tweet me a picture!


Florence’s Food: Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake

Becky is here today with a fab cake recipe I asked her to share after she brought it round to me when Bea arrived. Along with being delicious it’s also quite sophisticated, yet she reliably informs me, easy to make. Perfect to impress friends when time is short and seasonal for these last days of summer…

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

I bookmarked this recipe for raspberry amaretti crunch cake just before I became a Mum after enjoying a slice in a cafe on one of my many maternity leave cake dates. I searched online for a recipe and this BBC Good Food one popped up first. What I love the most about using any Good Food recipe is how heavily they are rated. As time is so precious, I’m no longer prepared to waste it cooking or baking something that could turn out to be a flop. I love the fact that you can search only for 5 star rated recipes and I find the comments section underneath each recipe is a great help for tips and suggestions.

With this recipe, for example, there were a lot of comments suggesting that an extra egg was needed, as well as a lot longer in the oven. So, first attempt, I added an extra egg and just patiently kept checking the cake until my skewer came out clean. It’s a very simple, all in one mix which takes very little effort to prepare but tastes great.

A week after baking this for Rebecca to celebrate Bea’s arrival, we collected some wild raspberries on a family dog walk so made the cake again using half the quantities and baked it in a loaf tin. It turned out just as good.


PS Read more from Becky here

Blueberry Hummingbird Cake

April is my birthday month and so I feel inclined towards celebrating cake in all of it’s forms today. This one is a favourite recipe of mine from the first Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and a slice even features on the cover. The reason that I like it is that it is huge – this is the perfect cake to have for a party or to take to work as it will easily feed 20. It’s light and moist and delicious. A total winner and it’s easy to make to boot.

Images copyright Lawson Photography

As you can see the images here were taken during the shoot at my old house before we moved, by the lovely Pete and Laura Lawson – thanks guys!

Blueberry cake – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
Preheat oven to 170C fan

350g butter, unsalted, room temp
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon zested
450g plain flour
2 tbsp of baking powder plus 1tsp
270ml soured cream

250g blueberries plus extra to decorate
1 quanitity of cream cheese frosting
(300g icing sugar, 50g unsalted butter, 125g cream cheese)
loosened with 30ml of soured cream and 20ml of lemon juice

25cm ring mould, greased and lined

Images copyright Lawson Photography

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2.Add eggs, one at a time
3.Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, flour and baking powder
4.Add soured cream and beat until combined, gently stir in blueberries
5.Fill your tin and smooth surface over with a knife
6.Bake for 40-50 mins until the crust is golden brown and the sponge springs back.

Images copyright Lawson Photography

7.Leave to cool in the mould for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wired rack, removing the paper.
8.When the cake is cool, pour the icing mix over the top and sprinkle with blueberries.

Images copyright Lawson Photography

Definitely give it a try readers, it is soooo good!


PS Thanks for bearing with me this week – we are back in the bedroom!!! I’m still getting sorted but hope to be back next week with my usual schedule.

V-day Fun…

Is it me or is Valentines day on steroids this year?

I happened to go shopping this weekend and everywhere I turned it seems the Valentines day factory had come to town. Not just chocolates and flowers and gifts but Valentines outfits and foods and everything.

I know lots of people hate it, and I must admit, Pete and I don’t really celebrate, settling for a card and usually a night in with some good food and wine, but I like Valentines day. I like the idea of spending time with the one you love and more than that I like the idea of little gestures and sweet surprises that make people smile, friend or stranger. (Last year I filled our living room with heart shaped balloons.)

So as is tradition I’ve rounded up a few V-day ideas that caught my eye. Most of them are food related admittedly and I might well make some valentines biscuits for work. Why not spread the love?

Lots of heart shaped love,

More Valentines ideas
Valentines florals
How meeting your other half has changed you

#JanuaryJoy: Bake some Bread

This time last year I used the same prompt for JanuaryJoy and then suggested I make it a regular monthly bread club post. Sadly, time got away from me but I am determined to make more bread, hence me including it again this year. On my bread horizon right now is sourdough.

Image credit

I love sourdough – the taste, the toast it makes, but it’s a little trickier than other breads as it needs a ‘starter’ – not necessarily something difficult to do but it requires a bit of forward planning which I am not good at. I did buy an appropriate kiln jar to hold the starter some months back (from Ikea) but have so far failed to fill it, until yesterday that is!

I used Paul Hollywoods recipe – the undisputed King of bread, however there are clearly many different options for making the starter as his first and second books both have a recipe, the first using apple and the second using grapes.

Now all I have to do is wait for it to start growing (it should take 4-7days I reckon) and then I am on it – evidence coming soon to these pages 🙂

Have you ever made Sourdough? Any tips for me?
(If you would like to contribute to the bread club, please do send in your recipes and/pr photos!)


PS Last years no-rise wholemeal loaf

Raspberry, Lemon and Yogurt tea loaf

It was my mum’s birthday at the beginning of October and as she’s not a big fan of chocolate cake or anything with cream or buttercream, Francesca decided to try this Yeo Valley Cookbook recipe for lemon and raspberry cake. I’ve made cakes with dairy ingredients in them before and they never fail to produce a moist cake. This one is kept fresh and light with the fresh raspberries and the addition of a sharp lemon drizzle.

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
115g soft butter
225g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of one large lemon
2 large free range eggs
100g wholemilk natural yogurt
25g ground almonds
200g fresh raspberries
100g granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line your tin with baking paper.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream together the butter and caster sugar then add the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the second egg. Fold in alternate spoonfuls of the flour and yogurt, then finally fold in the almonds.
  • To distribute the raspberries evenly add a layer of cake mix to your tin, and scatter 1/3 of the raspberries on top. Repeat with 2 further layers finishing with a layer of raspberries on top.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown on top then a further 20-25 minutes with foil covering the top.
  • Allow the cake to cool out of the oven for 5 minutes, then mix the granulated sugar with the lemon juice and spoon over the cake. Cool on a wire rack and remove the paper to serve.

The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook (Yeo Valley) is a fabulous recipe book with loads of dishes perfect for autumnal and winter gatherings, so I’ll no doubt be sharing a few more here  in the coming weeks…

Enjoy readers!


Peach Upside Down cake

I’m currently obsessed with peaches and was planning on making a peach dessert of sorts when I found myself in need of a quick cake to take to a friend’s house. It turned out so well that I thought those of you who perhaps don’t bake because you don’t have time or find it difficult, might try this peach upside down cake at home.

I used a simple sponge recipe that I also use to make Victoria Sandwich cakes:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz butter
  • 6oz of self raising flour
  • 6oz of caster sugar

Beat the butter and sugar together, then mix in the beaten eggs and the flour and you’re done.

For the peach top, I browned the peaches in some butter and sugar to give them some colour, otherwise the cake top can look a little anaemic.

Arrange the peaches in a pretty pattern on the bottom of your greased cake tin and pour the cake mix on top then bake for 40-50 minutes at 180 degrees, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Turn the tin upside down and remove the cake so the peaches are now on top. I used a sprung tin with a removable base, which comes in handy when gently peeling the cake off the peaches. Sprinkle with some granulated sugar whilst warm and serve warm with cream or ice cream, or cold with tea and gossip 🙂

Of course, you can do it with any fruit – when I was a child I used tinned pineapples, or you could use apples in autumn or other berries for a more pudding-y dessert. Right now, peaches are so delicious though, I think they’re perfect for this.


Monday Must Have: Cronuts

If you’re an avid internet browser like me you might have already heard about these little rings of deliciousness. As you already know, I’m on a diet and when you’re on a diet it only takes so long before you start obsessing over food you shouldn’t eat. (Some might say that’s why diets don’t work, but that’s a whole other post.) This time around for me it has been doughnuts. I love all the simple ones, jam filled sugar crusted ones or icing glazed rings, no Krispy Kreme custard filled nonsense for me, but these cronuts look delicious.

Image via DominiqueAnsel.com of the original Cronut

Apparently they are very new news. Invented at the beginning of May by Dominique Ansel at his eponymous New York bakery, once word got out there were queues lining the street within days. I can see a ‘Magnolia Bakery starts the Cupcake trend’ scenario happening all over again here. The Cronut is essentially a ring doughnut made from croissant dough then with the associated icing, sugar and a creme patisserie filling. If you’re not of the sweet toothed brigade like me that might sound a bit much. For me, it sounds pretty much like heaven. Unbelievably they only make 200 a day and the Cronuts are selling at $50 on Craigslist as a result!

Image via DominiqueAnsel.com of the original Cronut

Now, I have never made croissant dough (some things life is too short for,) and nor do I have a deep fat fryer (why would you do that to yourself?!) but for these I am seriously considering both. What I’m wondering is can I modify them to make at home?

Image via The Boy Who Bakes

Now Edd Kimber (of GBBO fame) has a quick 20 minute Croissant dough – Real croissant Dough normally takes 24h + to make but this is a modified version in a rough pastry style, which he then used to make a modified version of Cronuts. I wonder if you could make them with pre-made Croissant Dough? And I wonder if you can bake them? Well, the answer is I’m just gonna have to try and I’ll get back to you. Just not this week before my diet midpoint goal!

Image via The Boy Who Bakes

If you’re thinking of recreating them, then watch this video of the originals being made for a little more insight and if not, just feel smug today that you know what the latest trend is sweeping the baking industry. (At least you’ll be able to sleep at night.) 😉

World, meet Cronut video:


PS. Think it’s all a lot of fuss for a doughnut? You’ll love this article ‘Sweet baby Jesus, Don’t let the Cronut become the new Cupcake.’

Florence’s Food: Macarons

Today, I’m handing you over to my sister Francesca because she is going to share her tips on making (the notoriously tricky) macarons. After she had cracked the recipe and bake, I asked her to teach me, and you guys, how to make them, with stunning results. You can find the basic macaron recipe here on The Pink Whisk – the baking blog by Ruth, who came second in the first Great British Bake off series. Francesca is going to talk you through the how-to step by step sharing her hard won tips so you can skip to the perfect macarons!

A very lovely friend recently brought a box of macarons all the way back from Brussels for me and I instantly fell in love. Each was a different flavour with a tangy delicious filling and the colours were beautiful! I decided I wanted to make them myself and knowing how notoriously difficult they were to make I took the time to read around the art of making them. With a fair bit of baking experience under my belt I foolishly went into my first batch feeling quietly confident. I followed the recipe and heeded the few warnings about common stumbling points but mine were still misshapen, unrisen and very firmly stuck to my extra greased grease proof baking paper. The silver lining to this baking disaster was the macaron eaton mess I made with the broken pieces I managed to prize from the baking paper! A futher 4 batches were made with varying degrees of success and failure and I now believe I have mastered the tricky little macaron! I hope with these tips you will avoid the 4 unsuccessful batches and skip right to the proud moment of sandwiching two together and having your friends/family tell you how great they look (and taste!)

My first piece of advice is not to try making macarons without a silicon Macaron Mat! Other people recommend different brands of baking paper but the only success I had was with my purpose made silicone Macaron Mat (link to the one I bought). As long as they are cooked at the right temperature, for the right amount of time and left to cool completely, they will peel off this mat with ease. (Make sure you put a baking try under your mat before you pipe anything onto it or you’ll have great difficulty moving the floppy silicon mat into the oven without your mixture going everywhere!)

I start by mixing the ground almonds and icing sugar very thoroughly. This can be done with a food processor or enthusiastically by hand! Once they are mixed, I weigh out the egg whites ensuring the mixing bowel is squeaky clean and no egg yolk gets mixed in. They need to be whisked to a stiff peak and then the sugar can be added in bit at a time. Be careful not to over whisk or they egg whites will become flat again. This is the best stage to add in the food colouring. Gel colouring is best as it does not affect the consistency of the mixture as much as a liquid colouring. I personally like ‘sunshine yellow’ for my lemon macarons but pick whichever colour takes your fancy! You do need quite a bit of colouring, they fade a little when cooked. I use about half a tube for each batch.

The ground almond and icing sugar mixture can then be sieved into the egg whites, I usually do it in thirds. Each time you sieve the mix over the egg whites some larger almond grains will be left behind (above top right), these will make the maracons grainy if you force them through the sieve so throw these away. Fold the almond and icing sugar mix into the egg whites being careful not to knock out too much air as you go. Once they are fully mixed together, the macarons are ready to pipe.

I like to make lemon macarons which requires the addition of the zest of 2 lemons and ½ – 1 whole juiced lemon. I add this once all the mixture is combined and add the second half of the juice slowly and see how loose the mixture becomes, depending on the size of the lemon only half may be needed, or the macaron mix will not hold its shape on the mat.

I have two fancy piping devices, neither of which helped me with the macarons as the nozzle sizes weren’t right. I decided to fill a plastic sandwich bag full of mixture and seal it at the top, then hold the mixture upside down so the tip is pointing in the air and carefully cut off the corner tip. You can then turn it around and start piping onto your mat.

Once your mat is full of macarons, you need to help the mixture flatten by lifting the tray about 10cm and dropping it flat onto the work surface. Do this 3-4 times until your macarons have flattened out nicely, then leave the mixture on the side for 30 minutes to form a skin. At this point you can preheat the oven to 140, (fan assisted.) You should be able to gently touch the top of the macarons without any mixture sticking to your finger. They need baking for 1416 minutes in my oven, but I’m afraid it can be a trial and error situation as every oven varies. They then must be left to cool completely before trying to remove them from the baking mat or they will stick and break.

You can be a creative as you like with the filling. I have to confess I’m not sure I’ve mastered that part yet but I do like using whipped cream with the addition of a generous handful of raspberries and a little icing sugar. Anything from jam to nutella can be used to fill them or special macaron buttercream filling, for which there are numerous recipes on the internet for, I just haven’t found one I like enough to use yet! My last bit of advice is to only sandwich the shells together with filling just before you eat them, otherwise they tend to go soft if left for too long. The shells will keep fresh for about a week in an air tight container.

Good luck and remember, if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! I think this motto was made for macaron making!

Thank you Francesca! I was so impressed with this batch – now to make them myself!

Will any of you be joining us in attempting macarons, or have you mastered them already – I’d love to hear any tips!


The Details:

Your Daily Bread: Easter Edition

February flew past and as a result, we skipped a month, but I do intend to bring you a monthly bread recipe after our start to the year with the easy wholemeal bread recipe I shared in January. Today I feel like we have jumped to the other end of the spectrum entirely as I took it upon myself this weekend to make Paul Hollywood’s hot cross buns (adapted from How to Bake) – what could be more suitable for a freezing weekend before Easter? I’m not going to re-post the recipe, because it is published here in full, instead, I’m going to tell you what I did and give you my tips.

First things first, this is not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming and labour intensive. I never normally attempt recipes with this many stages but don’t be put off, it’s the perfect thing to do on a bank holiday weekend or when you’re stuck inside with this horrible winter weather. It’s also flexible – there are three ‘rises’ of at least an hour each, and I just ran local errands and did housework around them and found that the recipe was fine if they were left rising for longer than it called for.

The basic dough was easy enough to make but I found myself short of strong white bread flour and so instead used half wholemeal and half plain white flour. There’s a section at the front of the book saying you can ‘blend’ the two and mine turned out a little firmer with more structure and texture to the bun, but were still delicious and felt healthier.

Folding in the fruit was the hardest bit – it felt like they were never going to stick into the dough and I made my apple chunks too large – they need to be 0.5cms or less. I have taken a photo of the fruit dough before it’s allowed to rise and after (in the bowl,) to reassure you if you feel the same way!

Try and make sure your twelve buns on the tray are the same size and have been rolled smooth so they don’t split during the bake producing odd shapes. They will rise into each other so you can tear them apart just like shop bought ones!

The bit I was most nervous about was putting the crosses onto the buns. I’m not good when it comes to piping so I opted to make the flour and water paste then just drizzle it across the whole tray left to right, then top to bottom until they all has crosses on. It wasn’t the neatest method and I ended up with a few ‘mis-shapes’ but that’s all part of the fun of home-made right?

The Apricot glaze really finishes them off and gives them a beautiful shiny finish, enhancing the golden brown colour.

And the end result? All I can say is make them. It took me the best part of a whole day (although I did other things too, I’d say you need a whole afternoon,) but the end result looks so impressive and I have never been so proud of something I have produced. As for the taste, a shop bought hot cross bun is never going to be the same again. For me they really encapsulate the spirit of Easter feasting, special buns full of fruit, spice and flavour and because they won’t be something you can make every day, they will be all the more special. I can see myself making these every Easter for many a year to come.

Do let me know if you make them and Tweet @FlorenceFinds or Instagram me @Rebecca_Norris a photo – this can be the Florence Finds Easter challenge – I’ll post the results on Facebook 🙂


PS In case you missed the link, here’s the full Paul Hollywood Hot Cross Bun recipe adapted as above from the book, How to Bake.

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