Curly Whirly Cake

Thank goodness January is over. It’s definitely is a month where everybody goes a bit nuts. The gym is suddenly full, the streets are full of joggers. I end up going absolutely mental for online shopping. There’s no explaining it, I just want to buy EVERYTHING. I also spend many hours fantasising about my perfect duvet day, waking up when it’s light outside, and spending the whole day snuggled up in my pyjamas reading novels and chocolates. Seriously, old lady proclivities rule.

It’s also been a time for heart-warming puds. I baked this sticky toffee pudding and discovered the deliciousness that is this cake, which had gone a bit stale in the tin but was utterly delicious gently warmed through, and poured all over with hot sticky toffee sauce. It is sooo tasty, try it with any plainish cake that’s gone a bit dry and old and you will see miracles happen. I wish I had taken more photos but to be honest, the cake was deeply unphotogenic, and we ate it straight out of the pyrex dish in around 1 minute flat.

I’ve also been on the hunt for a brand-new delicious chocolate fudge recipe. This one from Konditor and Cook looked incredibly promising. Unfortunately, when I baked it, it turned into an absolute stodge-fest.

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Just look at how claggy that sponge looks!

I’m sure I probably did a few things wrong in the making of the cake, but even so, it just didn’t taste of much either, just sugar. Disappointing, because Konditor and Cook’s Curly Whirly Cake seems to have a cult following, but perhaps it’s just not for me.

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I’ve seen another recipe on the Waitrose website for a chocolate silk cake that looks like it has a similar method, and I might give that one a whirl next time.

If you want to give the Curly Whirly Cake a go, the recipe is all over the internet and can be found on the The Guardian here.

Onto 2017

Christmas has been a week of dreamily pink morning skies, the fields heavy with mist and foliage sparkling with frost. The nights have been speckled with stars, and it has been glorious.

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

The blogging world is shiner and glossier than ever, but here I am, still pottering away in my corner of the internet. I’ve been crazily busy in the last couple of months but it’s so satisfying to look back at what we’ve achieved.

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We moved house again for starters. A and I are now the proud owners of a tiny house deep in the middle of leafy countryside. We’ve left the stultifying atmosphere of decaying seaside resort behind, and now life is filled with the middle-class mediocrity that is trips to Homebase and planting bulbs in my garden. I can’t help but love it.

Amidst the turmoil on the world stage, there have been staycations in honey-coloured cottages tumbling with roses, jaunts down meandering pathways pathways to hidden fishing villages, watching magnificent sunsets from the tip of a Greek island and simply standing in the garden in my pyjamas, toes sunk into the dewy grass.

I don’t bake anywhere near as much as I used to. Busy schedules and changing tastes mean I’m not as partial to some baked goods (macarons, I’m looking at you) as I used to be. A good savoury meal means just as much to me as a beautifully golden apple pie. That’s not to say I haven’t baked because I definitely have! I christened the new oven by baking a damply delicious orange and white chocolate cake. There have been s’mores brownies, cheesecake, chocolatey cookies, an apple crème fraîche cake and a gorgeously bouncy gingerbread sponge slathered in the most moreish of Biscoff cream cheese icing, pictured above. Most of these have remained unphotographed. It’s really rather relaxing to take a step back from making everything look deliciously photogenic, and not worry about collapsed cakes or exploding mince pies too much.

As we go into 2017, I think the most important message for me to remember is to relish these small delights. To not drive myself nuts trying to be like “everybody else,” to hold in check the desire for new things all the time, to remember that life must be lived as well as worked, and really, to stop checking that harbinger of bad news and social insecurity that is Facebook. I guess that’s my New Year’s resolution sorted then! 🙂

Hello and Goodbye?

Back the the ye olde days of baking, I was always trying out new recipes and versions of favourite treats, keen to hunt down the favourites and bookmark them away forever.

Now I’ve got to the happy stage where I have a small collection of favourite recipes. Unfortunately as my baking repertoire has consolidated itself, the scope for blogging about these bakes has shrunk. Seriously, who wants to read about a victoria sponge a million times over?

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So even though I’ve been baking here and there, the results haven’t appeared on the blog. The eaters ooh over and appreciatively consume the results and that’s what really matters.

Perhaps this is me saying that lick + spoon has indeed reached its natural conclusion. I’m not sure. I certainly feel that there is less scope within me for creating new posts. With life getting busier outside of work, new exciting responsibilities and a desire to not get too stuck in living my life via the internet, we shall see what the future holds, but I think it’s time for a break and a (possibly) temporary goodbye.

If I don’t pop back, muchos thanks for all sticking around and reading the blog :).

 

Cakes and Calligraphy

Happy Easter everyone!

I’ve been enjoying the last couple of days off from work,  and it has been a blissful time filled with leisurely lie-ins, lazy lunches, and plenty of retail therapy. It was so nice not to worry about all the usual holiday palaver of flights, accommodation, and struggling with directions in a strange destination, but I certainly managed to consume plenty of cake and empty my wallet shopping!

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I sadly didn’t photograph all the cakes but we ate delicious sticky toffee tweener from Selfridges, sugary doughnuts from Bread Ahead, and gorgeous french patisserie from Le Patisserie des Reves.

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I oohed and ahhed over beautiful cake displays, and pink flowers galore. The floral displays outside Liberty never fail to impress.

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I dragged poor A along for a calligraphy class which was so interesting – now I see what I’ve been doing wrong all along, and now I’ve got all the equipment handy will be keen to continue practising!

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Work hasn’t been great recently, and it’s been a real struggle getting myself to keep going every day. I’ve been thinking about ways to try and make my free time go further, and I think this break was a great way of utilising time without spending ridiculous amounts or going to a huge effort.

Duck and Waffling

I’ve been thoroughly spoilt for my birthday, with A buying me my coveted 45mm lens for the perfect blurry background. I ran around the flat taking photos of everything in excitement, how sad am I?!

My new lens had its first proper outing when we headed out to Duck and Waffle. I’ve been wanting to try their menu for years, but we just hadn’t got round to it until now. It’s a meat-heavy post so veggies look away now!

Getting to Duck and Waffle for the lunch hour rush involved dodging many a suited-and-booted city worker dressed head to toe in black or grey. We went through the wrong entrance, got redirected by a security guard, then finally found ourselves whizzing up the speedy glass lift to what felt like the top of the world.

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The food and the ambience in Duck and Waffle were pretty special. It’s pricey – we paid £50 a head for a substantial meal, and two non-alcoholic drinks. For a special occasion, definitely worth it, but certainly not a weekly affair!

Crispy pig ears to start off with, smoky with paprika, and absolutely delicious.

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Then juicy bacon wrapped dates followed next, with a mustardy sauce for dipping. We had some spicy n’duja and gruyere bread on the side with this.

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Then came the small plates of oxtail doughnut and foie gras creme brulée. The doughnut was an interesting combination of sweet and savoury.

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Cut through to reveal the interior…

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The foie gras brulée looked incredible, and I really wanted to love it, but it was just too rich for me, so that one was happily polished off by A.

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Finally, the famous duck and waffle, with a side of beautifully cooked broccoli. Truly the star of the show, the duck glisteningly crispy, the duck egg golden-yolked and perfectly runny. This was a dish we really consumed with glee.

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Side note – nail colour is Essie’s Watermelon. My latest favourite – just loving bright colours again as we are heading towards Spring again.

So, after all that food, we really needed to walk it off, so went for a long stroll along the river, giving the tums a bit of a much needed rest, before heading down to catch the train back out of London.

It’s feels like such a treat so save up special occasions like this, and I would definitely recommend Duck and Waffle for occasions where you want good food, a central location, great views and don’t mind splashing out a bit more than normal. The other such place I have had my eye on for some time is the afternoon tea at Sketch, so that will probably be my next treat destination… perhaps this time again next year!

The Future

The blogosphere is a funny old world. Trends come and go, and blogs are virtually unrecognisable from when I first started reading and writing, back in 2009.

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I first started reading running blogs. I was training for my first race, and reading accounts of PE-hating girls turned marathon-running women was incredibly motivating and inspirational.

Then there were the baking blogs. I loved seeing creative flavour combinations, haphazard photos of those bakes that hadn’t gone quite right, and  honest accounts of what recipes worked and which ones bombed.

Nowadays, the balance has shifted. Baking has fallen out of fashion, and the health food, clean eating craze is everywhere. Those everyday blogs have stopped, or disappeared, in the wake of this newer, glossier movement.

Back then, these blogs were more or less the simple blogger/wordpress template types, with a homemade banner, and slightly blurry, out-of-focus or pixellated photos. Nowadays, blogs are like magazines – selling a lifestyle. It’s a carefully curated combination of fashion, beauty, and homewares and it’s pretty intimidating.

I do enjoy reading these blogs – just like I enjoy reading glossy women’s magazines. They’re great for an escapist read and a spot of daydreaming, but they do lack that intimacy that comes with smaller, more homely blogs. When you have thousands of readers, suddenly there’s an awful lot you don’t want to be sharing with the interwebs anymore.

I’m not really sure what’s going to happen with the future of my own, very little blog. It started out as my online space to ramble about everything and anything, then fell increasingly into the baking niche. I don’t bake anywhere near as much as I used to, and I think it might be refreshing to start writing about some different topics. So it will be interesting to see what happens!

What will you think about branching out into non-baking topics?

 

The Best of 2015

I think I’ve gone for a year of familiar favourites in 2015. Perhaps I didn’t quite get round to making any of the things I thought I would at the end of 2014, but it was a no less satisfying year of baking for it.

This really was the year of the Sponge Cake. I baked numerous incarnations of them, and thoroughly enjoyed each one.

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Copious quantities of cream and fruit are excellent accompaniments.

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Then for something involving all the same ingredients, but a little more biscuity, these elegant (albeit enormous) viennese whirls.

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A’s favourite recipe of the year were these jammy crumble bars. Apparently they make excellent cycling fodder.

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Lastly, who could forget the glistening glories of these salted caramel brownies? More fudge than brownie, more gooey than solid, more chocolate than cake…I wonder if these will make a repeat showing in 2016?

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Here’s to a healthy, happy 2016. I can’t promise to bake and blog as much as I have in the past as sadly real life is annoyingly getting in the way, but I’ll do my best. Things to look out for? I’ve got a bag of linseeds and chia seeds that are going to be going out of date by the end of the year, so perhaps I need to get my butt into gear and use them up? Chia seed cookies? Anyone? Anyone???

No, okay.

The Algarve, Portugal

My holiday decisions always seem to be a bit hit or miss, from the disappointment that was Naples, to the utter joyful seclusion of the Sardinian beaches.

The Algarve was in many ways pleasant but nothing to write home about. The nicest beaches were packed to overcrowding, and the quieter ones had seas that were too choppy for a relaxing swim, or a scarily strong undertow that made me a little nervous about stepping in.

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There wasn’t a lot in the way of cultural sights to see. Here is a destination where the predominant attractions really are sun, sea and sand. Maybe storks too 🙂

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There were storks everywhere, nesting on the most unlikely of tall structures. From random stumps in the middle of derelict construction work, to electricity pylons, to the roofs of petrol stations, these birds certainly weren’t afraid of heights.

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Quaint cobbled streets with brightly painted whitewashed houses were actually rather a rarity. Look a little closer and they have names like Gingerbread Cottage – housing retired British expats of course. 

I guess that’s one of the reasons I didn’t feel drawn to the Algarve. It was hot, sunny and there were beaches galore, but I never got the feeling of really getting away from the UK. It surrounded me everywhere – from the tourists en masse, to the road signs and hotel signs, shops…it was almost surreal, and not in a very good way.

Escaping to the West provided some respite from the commercialism and built-up surroundings. Less child-friendly, fewer nightclubs…here the simpler, plainer beauty of the coastline is allowed to shine, and the tourist vibe a casual, relaxed surfer-based one. There are already signs of development creeping into the western coastline too, so perhaps this won’t last for long.

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I don’t tend to think too much about the way tourism affects the local character of a holiday destination. Usually, both find a way to work pretty harmoniously. In some ways, tourism helps preserve some local customs, cultures and traditions, albeit in a somewhat sanitised, showy way.

Sadly, in the Algarve, tourism seems to be the monster that ate and ate and ate. It feels like the coastline is no more than an endless chain of purpose-built resorts, imported-sand beaches, cheap drinks and night-life. For sure it generates jobs, and provides economic growth for a previously poor area, but what a shame it has to be at the expense of what was once a very beautiful coastline.

Raspberry Crumble Bars

The weather has been utterly glorious, and I’ve been making the most of it by…doing nothing. Not a thing.

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Well, almost.

I did drag myself away from my box set of Sex and the City (can’t believe the first season is 17 years old!) to throw together some ingredients to make these raspberry crumble bars. They were a perfect excuse for finishing up the brown sugar, and leftovers of some scrumptious raspberry jam.

Raspberry crumble bars have eluded me for some time. They always turned out too crumbly, too sweet, too oaty. Apart from one success story around three years ago, I never seemed to get it quite right since.

So I had another stab at the elusive, roughly following that tried-and-tested shortbread formula, and some inspiration from my Peanut Butter and Jam Bars (minus any nuts of course).

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These were delicious, warm and cold. A real keeper of a recipe. I think it works well for multiple seasons – perfectly portable for summer picnics, a warmed slice with a dash of cream for pudding, or perhaps even a Christmas version with mincemeat and a little winter spice thrown in for good measure. Totally the wrong time to be thinking about such things, but I’ve never managed to stick to this whole seasonality thing much. That person in the jumper, holding a raincoat, when it’s sunny and a glorious 30˚C outside? Yep, that’s me.

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Raspberry Crumble Bars

Makes 16 bars

  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 160g brown sugar
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/3 jar of good quality raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking paper.

Put the butter into a bowl, followed by the salt and brown sugar. Mix together, then add the oats and flour. Stir together to form quite a crumbly mixture that sticks together easily to form a dough.

Scoop out around 2/3 of the crumbly mixture, and press it firmly into the lined tin.

Then spread a layer of jam over the base, leaving a gap of around 0.5cm around the edges as the jam will spread as it bakes. Sprinkle over the remaining crumbly mixture, and bake the bars in the oven for around 30 minutes until golden-brown on top. Slice into squares, and leave to cool down completely.

Crème Fraîche Cake

Crème fraîche is great stuff for baking. Luxurious, a little tangy, and what’s more, it’s got a lovely long shelf life! When I went on my slightly wild Waitrose shopping spree, I picked up a tub with no idea what on earth I was going to do with it when I got home. Fill a cake with it? Mix it into some chocolate for a tangy ganache?

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Nah none of the above. I baked cake with it. When downers come along, flowers and cake always help ameliorate some of that bad feeling.

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I’ve gotten more than a little flower-happy. Last time it was red peonies, but then I saw some pink ones in bud, as well as some fragrant hyacinths, and guess what – bought both. Both are beautiful.

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I still can’t believe somebody from work stole my cake tin! I didn’t have a particularly strong sentimental attachment to it, but it was cheerful, and the best receptacle I had for storing cakes. Not to mention, who would want to steal a cake tin when you’ve gone to all the effort of taking homemade cake into work for everybody?

Anyway, back to this crème fraîche cake which was absolutely delicious.

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I sat on my bed in my pyjamas, all my cookbooks spread about me, and searched for recipes containing crème fraîche (surely it’s not just me that does this, by the way?!). Then, browsing online, I was inspired by a weekend cake on Fanny’s wonderful blog Like a Strawberry Milk. Originally, I intended on whisking together some crème fraîche and double cream, and sandwiching the cake with this as well as some jam. However, it was so good plain I didn’t bother with any extra adornment.

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Moist, tangy, and beautifully fluffy, it’s a great combination.

Crème Fraîche Cake

Adapted from Like a Strawberry Milk

  • 4 eggs
  • 250g sugar (I used a mixture of golden caster sugar and granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g self-raising flour (I used Waitrose sponge flour)
  • 50g salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and frothy. Then sift in the flour and fold to combine.

Stir the melted butter, salt and creme fraiche together in the saucepan. Beat together with a large spoonful of the egg/sugar/flour mixture, and this to the egg/sugar/flour bowl, and fold through until combined.

Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170˚C and bake a further 20 minutes. A skewer should come out clean when the cake is done. Leave to cool then unmould. You can slice it in half and sandwich with sweetened crème fraîche mixed with double cream, and a layer of jam, or leave it plain.