Thursday, 28 July 2016

Scrumptious caramel cupcakes.

A rather yummy batch of cupcakes with the sticky sweet flavour of caramel. Surprisingly easy to bake and incredibly more-ish, you'll want to keep the first batch all to yourself!

Ingredients (Makes 12 cupcakes)
  175g butter
  175g dark muscovado sugar
  175g self raising flour
  1 tsp vanilla extract
  3 eggs

For the buttercream
  100g butter
  200g icing sugar
  1 tsp salted caramel flavouring

Pre heat the oven to 180/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line a cupcake tray with cases.

Place the butter, sugar, self raising flour, vanilla extract and eggs into a large bowl and whisk till the mixture comes together.

Spoon the mixture into each case, then bake for 20-25 minutes, till risen and golden. The muscovado sugar will give this bake a more golden, caramel colour and taste compared to plain vanilla cupcakes, making for a tasty base for these yummy cupcakes.

Set the cupcakes aside to cool, then make a start on the tasty buttercream. Whisk together the butter with half of the icing sugar until combined, then sift in the remaining icing sugar and whisk till blended. Add the salted caramel flavouring to your buttercream, I used Beau'sconcentrated Salted caramel flavouring to achieve a deliciously rich caramel taste to my buttercream, whisk well to combine.

Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag, then pipe swirls of tasty buttercream on top of each cupcake to finish.

An incredibly easy bake that's rather quick to put together, these taste scrumptious when freshly baked but just as delicious when kept in an airtight container for a day or two.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Chocolate violet cupcakes.

Taking the subtle flavour of the classic violet sweet and smothering it over a dainty chocolate fairy cake, this delightfully sweet recipe makes for a lovely treat with the tasty flavour of the parma violet sweet!

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)
  60g margarine
  140g caster sugar
  1 large egg
  120g self raising flour
  20g cocoa powder
  1 tsp baking powder
  100ml lactose free milk

For the frosting
  80g margarine
  160g icing sugar
  1 tsp violet flavouring
  dash of red and blue food colouring
  edible sprinkles to decorate

Pre heat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas mark 3 and place the cupcake cases onto a tray.

Cream together the margarine and sugar till pale and fluffy, then add the egg and whisk to mix.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix, this will form a very stiff mixture at this stage, so don't worry! Then add in the lactose free milk, you can use ordinary milk if you prefer, it won't effect the recipe at all. Stir to combine, and you'll be left with a lovely, light and chocolatey mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each around halfway, then bake for 15 minutes till risen.

Place the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool whilst you prepare the frosting.

Mix together the margarine with half of the icing sugar till combined, then sift in the remaining icing sugar and mix. Add in the flavouring, I used Lakeland's natural Violet flavouring, I found that 10-12 drops gave the mixture a nice flavour, whisk to blend.

Next, you'll need to add the food colouring to create a lovely violet tinge to the frosting, I used Sugarflair's Ice Blue and Red Velvet gel food colourings, adding a dab of each to create the lilac shade. Give the frosting a good whisk to ensure that the colouring is fully combined, then spoon the mixture into a piping bag.

I used my trusty favourite star nozzle to create the pretty piped effect, simply pipe swirls of frosting on top of each cupcake, then finish off with a sprinkling of lilac or purple edible glitter.

A lovely sweet and light bake, don't be scared by the addition of just one egg in this recipe, the addition of the baking powder will help that rise along perfectly, resulting in lovely cupcakes. The chocolate flavour goes perfectly with the violet, for a lovely, sweet treat.

Monday, 25 July 2016

How do you create baking perfection? Using butter vs margarine.

It's long been a hot topic with every keen baker and cake fancier, do you dare to use margarine instead of butter in that bake, or do you stick to the long standing favourite and use butter to bake a perfectly fluffy and moist cake?

There are plenty of benefits to using both in the kitchen, yes it may be sacrilege to some to even think of daring to use margarine in a bake, but margarine does have it's benefits in the kitchen, not to mention being a great substitute for dairy free bakes when using a vegan margarine. It may look like a plastic tub of yellow gunk to some, but to others it's a miraculous ingredient, helping to add those essentials fats to your bake in place of butter.

Butter on the other hand is perfect for adding the essential fats to any bake, whilst also adding that rich creamy texture when baking classic sponge cakes. It may take more time to use when baking, allowing for it to soften prior to baking, but it's a favourite in the kitchen with many bakers that helps to create the perfect bake.

Both do have their pros and cons, to some the ease of whipping that tub of margarine straight out of the fridge for your bake is perfect for those quick bakes, or days when your strapped for time in the kitchen, whereas to others the preference in taste and texture draws them more towards using butter in their bake over margarine.

Butter is certainly best, and most recommended for baking, it's high in fat compared to margarine, allowing for a better bake, but margarine can benefit the perfect fluffy cake, with half and half blends now commonly available for baking, alongside a much better range of vegan margarines for dairy free bakes, it's best to use in bakes where you're adding extra flavouring in, such as rich chocolate cakes, where the sometimes noticeable taste of margarine is replaced with the tasty extracts, flavourings or cocoa powders placed in the bake.

When it comes to the topping, you can't beat butter for your frosting, but a good quality margarine can result in a tasty buttercream when adding flavourings in to the mix. A margarine based frosting does tend to be more runny compared to a stiffer butter based buttercream, making it easier to spread on top of bakes.

Personally, I tend to flit between the two when baking, on cold winter days margarine can be wonderfully time saving in the kitchen, whereas butter can be an utter delight to use on a summers day (that is when the weathers not too scolding hot!). Whatever your preferences, you can certainly find a time when you would prefer to use a tub of margarine over butter, or a stick of salted butter over a margarine block, either way, whichever you choose to use you'll still have an immensely tasty bake afterwards to munch upon't!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tea room exploration : Little Teahouse, Neston.

South Cottage, The Parade, Parkgate, Neston, CH64 6SA. Open 7 days a week, Mon - Sun 10:30am - 4:30pm |

Along the start of the seafront, nestled amongst Neston's picturesque coastal path is a delightful little find, a tea room that's home to a scrumptious selection of baked goods, as well as a lovely view of the Welsh coast, I can't think of a prettier stop off to take in some tea!

Parkgate is already infamous for it's sweet treats, and the Little Teahouse is certainly full of sweet baked treats. A delightful tea room that's cosy and snug inside with a lovely vintage feel to the furnishings, making for a great stop off, whether your taking in a walk along the coastal path, or simply fancy popping out for some afternoon tea!

They certainly know their cake at the Little Teahouse, with a great selection of freshly baked treats available every day, you'll find plenty to over indulge on at their cake counter, these aren't your average bakes either, with a selection that's deliciously inventive, from pear and amaretto (oh my!!!) to raspberry and ginger, and carrot & pineapple, they even have a selection of gluten free options like lemon and polenta cake, it really is a cake fanciers heaven!

On my visit their was an abundance of delicious cakes to choose from, with tasty treats like ginger cake, raspberry and almond cake and tasty homemade scones, but I was lured in by the cheeky looking lemon and blueberry cake. A scrumptiously moist lemon cake filled with fresh blueberries and a zesty lemon filling, making for a heavenly bake that was deliciously moreish.

To accompany my cake I choose one of their many speciality tea blends, China Rose, a subtle and light brew with a hint of rose that went perfectly with the cake. You'll find a full menu of speciality tea blends, coffees and soft drinks to choose from, alongside their selection of tasty cakes and afternoon tea options.

Why not pull up a seat outside on their pretty floral seating area, or nestle inside to over indulge on plenty of cake, this really is one of Cheshire's best kept secrets that's worth the journey to visit!

Cake rating:
5/5 | Free from options available.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A tasty sweet treat : Gingerbread cupcakes.

When it starts getting darker and colder you immediately think of yummy warming and stodgy treats, these gingerbread cupcakes will certainly fill those cravings, with a tasty kick of warmth and a delightfully sweet frosting finishing this delicious recipe off!

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)
  150g butter
  150g soft brown sugar
  3 eggs
  2 tbsp treacle
  150g self raising flour
  1 tsp ground ginger
  1/2 tsp cinnamon
  Pinch of mixed spice

For the frosting
  100g butter
  200g icing sugar
  1 tsp vanilla essence

Pre heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and fill a cupcake tray with cases.

Cream together the butter and sugar till fluffy, the end result will be a caramel coloured mix. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix, followed by the treacle and blend well, this will help the colour along with your cupcakes.

Sift in the flour and mix well, followed by the ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice, then mix, scraping the sides and base of the bowl to ensure it's fully mixed.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each case 2/3 full, I used slightly larger cupcake cases so I filled mine a little over halfway each. Bake for 15-20 minutes till risen and golden.

Place your cupcakes on a wire rack to cool whilst you prepare the buttercream.

Mix the butter with half of the icing sugar till fully combined, sift in the remaining icing sugar and blend. Then add the vanilla essence and mix, resulting in a lovely, sweet frosting to top your cakes.

Spoon the frosting into a piping bag, I used a star shaped nozzle for mine, then pipe swirls on top of each cupcake to finish.

A delightfully fluffy, spiced and sweet bake, that certainly won't last long, but these will keep well when stored in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from Good Food.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Every cake fanciers dirty little secret : the pre packaged cake.

Lurking in every cake fanciers cupboards are a dirty little secret, wrapped up in layers of packaging, with a shelf life that's untold of, yes, I'm taking about pre packaged cake, the likes of which Mr Kipling dreams of every night, whilst we stuff our faces with piles of fondant fancies and Jaffa cakes.

There's nothing wrong with our dirty secret, some days you just want a break from whisking away frantically in the kitchen on a tasty bake, so you whip out that packet of lemon slices and happily munch away at the delicious cake.

It's a bit like cake packet mix, to some it's sacrilege to even think of eating a shop bought cake that's full of additives and e-numbers, but you must admit, there are times when you'd just like to relive memories of overeating mini rolls and bakewell tarts as a child, by munching on some of the good stuff from Mr Kipling...

Sure, they may have a shelf life that could often live beyond your best freshly made bakes, but there's a certain comfort in these tasty delights that can't be beat, not for all the freshly made victoria sandwich cakes and lemon drizzle bakes.

At a time when almost every company has a selection of pre made cakes to snack on, from the recently revamped mini rolls (1), to the family favourite Mr Kipling, and even the purveyor of pre made yorkshire puds, Aunt Bessie's has moved into the world of cakes (2), there's never been a larger selection of pre made cakes and baked snacks to munch on with your afternoon cuppa.

Yes it may be a guilty pleasure to some, but I relish in my love of fondant fancies, lemon slices and madiera cakes, besides, why attempt to create fondant fancy perfection when you whip out a packet of the good stuff from Mr Kipling!

Images: Apple pie KEKO64/ | Cakes via Bakery Info.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Not quite Yorkshire Parkin..

A delicious cheat at the traditional Yorkshire treat, this recipe takes the flavours of the tasty bake and turns them into a rather scrumptious warming tray bake. Choc with plenty of ginger and golden syrup, with a little bit of sticky help from some treacle. This recipe is made lactose friendly with a couple of ingredient switches, making for a tasty bake that you can tuck into with glee!

  225g self raising flour
  110g caster sugar
  1 tsp ground ginger
  1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  1 egg
  200ml lactose free milk
  55g margarine
  110g golden syrup
  30g treacle

Pre heat the oven to 160c/140c fan/gas mark 3, grease and line an 8" square tray bake tin.

Sift together the flour, sugar, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and set aside.

Start melting down the margarine, traditionally you would use butter for this recipe, but as that's not lactose friendly (speaking as someone who'd normally be 'ahem' bloaty after indulging in a buttery cake), I've swapped it for a dairy free margarine. Melt this down with the golden syrup and treacle to a lovely dark and syrupy mixture.

Set the melted mixture aside whilst you whisk the egg, add in the lactose free milk and beat, you can easily swap this for milk there's no difference to the texture or rise in the bake from using a lactose free milk, then set aside.

Pour in the melted mixture to the flour mixture and mix, it will be rather thick at this stage so don't worry. Then pour in the egg mixture and mix, this should loosen the mixture, beat till a smooth mixture forms.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, then bake for 30-45 minutes till risen and golden. Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then cut your parkin into pieces, I was rather generous with mine making for 9 chunky slices of cake. Remove the slices from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from BBC Food.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Stuck cake? Here's how to (attempt) to fix it..

You can swear at it, threaten to hurt the cake and it's nearest and dearest, take a sledgehammer to it.. but as much as you may want to take that cake and throw it across the room there are thankfully some rather unusual ways to try and release that cake from it's tin prison.

We've all been there, even the most astute baker can fall victim to stuck cake syndrome, when the cake that you've spent so much time preparing and baking decides that it quite likes it's new tin home, and it's going to stay...

The first thing you take to doing is to wedge a knife right round the edges of that cake, but you may want to try a softer tool first; no we're not embarking on some kind of weird cake porn here, try using the humble rubber spatula to release your cake from it's tin prison. Run the spatula around the edges of the cake to loosen it, then turn the tin upside down onto a wire rack, hopefully this will do the trick, but there are some times when this unfortunately isn't enough.

There are times when that cake needs everything available throwing at it, not literally of course.. You could try leaving the tin upside down on a wire rack for a while, leaving gravity to do it's work, and sometimes it works perfectly, just leaving the tin upside down for half an hour can work miracles, then there are times when it just doesn't want to co-operate..

The next step in your cake release arsenal is to try an easier method than the often recommended towel trick on the 'net, because who's got time to soak towels and wrap the cake up in even more towels, when you've got cake that needs eating! Boil some water in a kettle and part fill a sink up with some cold water, adding the boiling water to fill, not too much, as you don't want to submerge your cake in water, just fill 1/4 of the sink to cover the base of the tin. Place the cake tin in the sink and leave it for 5 minutes, then use the same rubber spatula technique to loosen the cake. Dry the cake base off then tip the tin upside down on a wire rack, the heat should have helped to expand the tin, letting the cake drop out with ease.

Now, if this sadly doesn't work, it may be time to take a knife to that cake and give it a good wedge out of the tin, it most likely won't remain intact, but desperate times call for desperate measures, besides, at the end of the day that cakes going to get eaten, however it turns out!

There are however, other recommended techniques, ones that I haven't tried myself to whole heartedly recommend them, but you could try freezing the cake for several hours to remove it, or try the delightfully madcap Dame Edna tin snipping technique to release your cake... Hopefully though, my tried and tested techniques should work to help release that pesky cake, and remember, a good swearing session along the way won't harm either..

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Going gluten free : easy ways to make any bake wheat free!

Gluten free bakes don't have to taste bland and unappealing, the world of baking and gluten free food has changed so much in recent years that you're really spoilt for choice. Giving up wheat doesn't have to mean giving up on delicious cakes and baked treats, there's a world of delicious recipes out there, and plenty of alternatives to use in the kitchen, some of which are far easier to use than you'd imagine.

The main staple ingredient that forms any cake recipe, but hang on a minute.. you don't always have to use flour when it comes to baking! Traditional wheat flour of course needs putting in the bin, whilst wearing a hazmat suit.. but gluten free baking has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with many retailers offering great gluten free substitutes that you can use with ease in the kitchen. Companies like Doves Farm offer a great range of wheat and gluten free flours, from plain white flour that's great for cakes, to rice flour that's rather handy for baking puddings. Supermarkets like Asda even surprisingly have a fantastic gluten free flour that makes for a straight forward replacement when baking too.

There's a world of substitutes to use, each one having it's own unique qualities, it's all about pairing the right flour up with the right bake to achieve baking perfection. Most gluten free flours (like Doves Farms and supermarket own brands) are perfect for cakes, you just need to add in more protein to help with the rise, adding an extra egg and whisking those eggs before sifting in the flour, can help the bake along. Flourless substitutes like ground almond are great to use in cakes too, and you don't just have to use it for flourless chocolate cakes either, try using ground almonds for brownies, or orange and lemon cakes, there's plenty of delicious recipes out there to try. A couple of great gluten free cook books to add to your shelf for some ideas include Bake-a-boo's Bakery cookbook and Honeybun's Gluten free baking.

Xanthan gum - do I need to use it?
The short and surprising answer is no, you may see it listed as an ingredient on many gluten free recipes, and conversion guides, but you don't always need to use it and for some this extra ingredient isn't always a help. A simple substitute of ground chia seeds or flaxseeds will do the job just as well, and you don't need to faff with the measurements either, it's a straight swap with the recipe.

Don't want to alter that recipe? Cheat!!
A gluten free cake mix, yes such a thing really is possible! Gluten free specialists like Honeybun's and Glebe Farm have put all of their baking know how into some rather handy cake mixes that take some of the stress out of gluten free baking, of course it goes without saying that you should always double check the list of ingredients (wheat free doesn't always mean gluten free - I say from previous experiences) but you'll be pleasantly surprised at the range of cake mixes available. From plain sponge cakes to carrot cakes and brownies, pay a visit to sites like Naturally good food, to find a tasty range of cake mixes to pick up, I won't scold you for cheating...

Of course all gluten free baking is always trial and error at first, as some of my disastrous attempts have revealed, but don't be afraid to experiment and try recipes out. Swap the flour for a gluten free blend in a recipe, follow a tried and tested gluten free recipe out, or cheat and use a cake mix, however you decide to try going gluten free have a good ol' experiment and try new things out. You'll find some great tips, and links to recommended gluten free suppliers for those important baking ingredients at

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Cake shop exploration : Hummingbird Bakery.

The Angel Building, 405 St John Street, Islington, London, EC1V 4AB. Open Monday - Friday 9:30am - 7pm, Saturday - Sunday 10am - 7pm |

A name that we're all rather familiar with in the world of baking, if you haven't stumbled across one of their London bakeries, you'll certainly have tried one of their signature recipes out. Their Islington bakery is one of six across the capital, making it a must visit for cupcake aficionados, and cake fanciers.

Much raved about in the world of cupcakes, Hummingbird bakery are one of those signature London bakeries that's responsible for reviving our love of the cupcake. With their cakes taking a pinch of inspiration from classic American cupcakes, from the humble red velvet, to classics like chocolate and vanilla.

Their Islington bakery couldn't be located any better, just a stones throw away from Angel station, making for a perfect stop off when visiting the area. Housed inside the rather swish Angel building, you can't help but notice the cupcake sign outside their shop, beaconing you in with the lure of sweet treats inside.

Decked with their signature pink and brown colouring inside, the first thing you'll notice is the vast cake counter, laden with the days freshly baked goods. Cupcakes of course are their forte, and you'll find dozens of them amongst the counters, from their black bottom cupcake, to red velvets, and seasonal bakes. Not to forget slices of delicious cakes, from striking rainbow cake, to scrumptious chocolate malt. With free from options also available, simply ask for the days gluten free bakes.

On my visit I was really spoilt for choice, with a bakers dozen of different bakes to try, from their signature classics, to seasonal bakes like their popcorn cupcakes, and spooky halloween chocolate cupcakes, I'd timed my visit rather well.. I decided to try the intriguing looking S'moreanne cupcake, a tasty chocolate cupcake base topped with a gooey marshmallow fluff and a slice of dark chocolate. Certainly very messy but delicious, it was all gone in three bites... a slightly larger cupcake base would have been nicer, but it was very sweet and delicious

To accompany the tasty treat, I went for a cup of tea alongside, which certainly helped with the rich, gooey, marshmallow cupcake. You'll find a full menu of hot drinks should you decide to stay in, but do bear in mind that seating space is very limited, so you may want to opt for take out with your tasty cakes.

A pleasant bakery to visit for the keen cupcake fancier, if you haven't sampled their bakes before it's certainly worth a visit to pop in one of their London bakeries and try some.

Cake rating:
3/5 | Free from options available.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Double chocolate layer cake.

A scrumptious bake that combines two delicious chocolate flavours, with a yummy chocolate base and a tasty white chocolate frosting making for one rather delicious cake, and of course it's delightfully easy to make!

  200g caster sugar
  200g butter
  3 large eggs
  160g self raising flour
  40g cocoa powder

For the frosting
  70g butter
  140g icing sugar
  60g melted white chocolate

Pre heat your oven to 190c/170c fan/gas mark 5, grease and line two 20cm cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time, mixing as you go.

Fold in the self raising flour and cocoa powder and mix well to combine, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that it's fully mixed in.

Divide the mixture between the two tins, then bake for 20-25 minutes till risen.

Leave the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes to allow them to cool slightly, then remove them from the tins and place on a wire rack to cool down.

Once your yummy cake bases have cooled it's time to make a start on that tasty frosting. Melt your white chocolate down first, you can do this in a double boiler or speed things up by blasting it in the microwave for quick 10-15 second bursts till it's melted, doing it this way ensures that it won't burn in the microwave, or overheat.

Then set it aside whilst you make the frosting.

Sift half of the icing sugar into a large bowl with the butter, then whisk till fully combined, sift in the remaining icing sugar till blended for a good 2-3 minutes. Then spoon in the melted chocolate to combine it, you could add a splash of gin or vodka to really enhance the flavour of the frosting, just add a little dash of booze, then give it a good whisk to mix.

Place the base of the cake onto a plate, then spoon 2/3 of the mixture on top and spread evenly over the cake with a palette knife. Then place the second half of the cake on top, and spoon the remaining frosting on top, again spreading it evenly with a palette knife to cover the top of the cake. For a lovely finishing touch take a piece of the white chocolate and grate it on top of the cake, covering it with lovely curls of chocolate, yum!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Tea room exploration : No 6 Tea Room.

6 Chestnut Terrace, High Street, Tarporley, Cheshire, CW6 0UW. Open Monday-Friday 9:30am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-5pm |

Update May 2017: Since this cake exploration, No.6 Tea Room has now changed to Chestnut Cafe.

Nestled amongst the picturesque Cheshire countryside is a rather pleasant find, stocked the to brim with delicious teas, pretty patisserie, and scrumptious cake. With a vintage inspired flair, and delicious cakes, you'll certainly be glad that you made the journey!

No 6 tea room has been gracing Tarporley with it's delicious treats for the past few years, a picturesque setting, with a quaint look, that combines a traditional tea room, with a vintage flair. If their pretty floral decor outside doesn't tempt you in, then their intriguing turquoise decor will.

A delightful tea room inside, you'll find the bakes of the day nestled at the counter to tempt you. Never the same selection of choices, so you'll certainly be surprised with what patisserie and cakes are available on the day. With treats varying from roulades, to sticky ginger cake, fruit tarts, and carrot cakes, something for everyone.
The bright and airy decor inside certainly makes for a relaxing setting, with a lovely view of the pretty high street and floral seating area outside.

On my visit there was plenty of tasty treats to tempt, from ginger cake, to gateaux's, and scones, I decided to try the carrot and pistachio cake, a lovely twist on the traditional carrot cake. A very moist and sweet bake, the pistachio's adding an extra bit of crunch and flavour to the cake that was simply delicious, and a very hearty portion size too.

To accompany the bake I went for a pot of traditional tea alongside, this came accompanied with a pretty vintage tea strainer for a delightful cuppa. You'll find a full menu of teas, coffees and hot chocolates to accompany your cake.

A rather lovely tea room to visit, certainly worth the drive out to the country to take in a spot of tea, if it's a lovely day out why not try taking tea in the outside seating area for a pleasant outing.

Cake rating:

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Baked works of art at Cake International.

There's a certain art to be found in sugar paste, and thanks to Cake International, you can spend an entire weekend looking at beautiful works of cake art. An event where the cake is king, and you can feast your eyes on a bounty of hand crafted works of baked art.

You've got to admire the patience that goes into creating a towering abstract cake, or a beautiful burlesque dancer made out of sugar paste, at every show Cake International puts these majestic works of art on show, crowning the best bakes and hand crafted cakes as the winners of the show.

This was my first time at the show, having finally freed up the time to pay a visit to their latest show at Manchester's Eventcity. A weekend long celebration of all things cake, with hundreds of artisan bakers across the region showcasing their bakes as part of the shows competition section. But this wasn't all about the competition cakes, you could also pick up a few tips along the way with master-classes in sugarcraft and chocolate, to baking demonstrations and a spot of shopping along the way.

The first thing that catches your eye when you enter the show is the rows of stands to shop from, everything from sugarcraft supplies, to bake-ware and even cakes, could be found across the show. With a great selection to shop from, you could pick up some tasty flavoured icing sugars from Sugar and Crumbs to flavour your bakes, grab some pretty cake decorations from Cake Lace, and finish the day off by stuffing your face full of cake from the likes of The Brownie BarThe Little Round Cake Company or Martins Bakery.

Of course, the main highlight of the show has to be the competition cakes, rows upon rows of hand crafted cakes and sugarcraft adorn the stands waiting to be judged. With an abundance of bakers from colleges and classes across the region showcasing their bakes, alongside keen bakers, artisan and home bakers, showcasing their designs as part of the competition. There was such a variation of bakes and styles, that it would certainly making judging a hard task for a keen cake fancier like myself.

But that wasn't all the fun to be had at the show, with a selection of masterclasses and workshops around the venue, where you could pick up a few handy hints and tips to help you along the way with your own sugarcraft masterpieces. Finishing things off with the showcased Fifty shades of greybake, a towering life sized Christian Grey sculpture - whilst it's not really my sort of thing, some of the show goer's did seem to rather enjoy the show.

It certainly was a jam packed day, with entrance also including the Stitching, sewing and hobbycraft show next door. With all this cake decorating fun they'll have to top the show with next month's London date, where some towering bakes are already being planned alongside show stopping demonstrations and workshops.

Why not pay a visit to next month's Cake International at ExCel London, from the 27th-29th March 2015. Tickets are £12 advance/£11 senior, for further details, and to find out November's Birmingham show, visit

NB: I attended the event with a free press pass but this does not affect my view of the show, I'd have attended anyway as a ticket holder had I not been granted a pass.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Coffee cake wars : the ultimate taste test of coffee shop bakes.

It's a traditional cake that we all know and love, the humble coffee cake can be doused in tasty walnuts, or soaked in a rich boozy coffee for a scrumptious bake. For this round of cake wars I'm tucking into a tasty batch of coffee cake all in the name of research..

Sometimes you find yourself with the nearest option to satisfy your cake appetite being a Starbucks or a Costa, where you can pretty much guarantee that no matter where you are in the country will have the same selection of treats. I've done the gruelling, tasking, cake eating work for you, as I put the nation's chain coffee shop bakes to the test!

To test out the nation's Coffee cake selection I visited a few different coffee shops and cafes across the country in order to crown a delicious winner.

The first place I visited was John Lewis's cafe, their traditional coffee and walnut cake stays true to the classic recipe with layers of sponge and coffee flavoured buttercream.

A very strong coffee flavour to the cake with a generous portion of buttercream between each layer, the sponge was a little dry however, but this didn't distract from the flavour of the cake. 3/4

Next up was Costa, their coffee cake is a new addition to the menu making for a delightful choice amongst the usual offerings. A little different to the traditional coffee and walnut cake, this was a deliciously moist coffee soaked sponge cake with buttercream layered inside and on top.

A very sweet, rich and moist bake, not your usual coffee cake recipe, but a very tasty twist, let's hope that they keep this one on the menu! 4/4

The next cake offering came from Caffe Nero, aptly named the Cappucino cake, their coffee cake is somewhat similar to Costa's moist coffee soaked spongey offering, with three layers of sponge, filled with a coffee buttercream.

Apparently the secret to this cake is an infusion of their own blend coffee in the sponge, not quite as moist as Costa's offering, but it does add to the flavour of the cake. The icing finishing it off beautifully for a tasty treat. 3/4

Then the last stop was M & S's cafe for their similarly named Triple-layer Cappucino cake, it would seem that M & S have switched the traditional coffee and walnut cake for a tasty coffee and chocolate cake.

Tasty layers of coffee and chocolate sponge are filled with coffee buttercream and topped off a with chocolate dusting. A little different to your usual coffee cake, still tasty, but somewhat lacking the flavour of the other coffee cakes.2/4

The overall verdict, the tastiest of the bunch has to be Costa's take on the coffee cake, I could have easily gone back for seconds or maybe thirds.. It will definitely hit the spot if your craving a coffee cake.

Left image Caffe Nero via Facebook.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Damson and sloe gin cake.

A rather scrumptious treat that takes the tasty seasonal fruit and gives it a good dousing in booze, making for a tasty bake that's rather delicious, so much that it probably won't last for long!

  175g caster sugar
  175g butter
  2 large eggs
  250g self raising flour
  150g chopped damsons
  3 shots of sloe gin
  chopped walnuts to decorate

Pre heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4, grease and line a large loaf tin with a strip of baking paper, it should just be sticking out over the top of the tin making for a swift and easy removal of the cake later.

Cream together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time till combined.

Sift in the flour and blend together, it will look a little thick at this stage but don't fret, it'll turn out lovely!

Add the chopped damsons, leaving a couple aside to place on top later, for mine I used a batch of frozen damsons saved from last season, but as we're fast approaching damson season again this bake will be perfect for those freshly plucked damsons! If like me your using frozen damsons, let them thaw a little, then chop them and pop them into the bowl. Give them a good mix, the mixture should start to develop pretty purple swirls at this stage as you stir the damsons in.

Finally, finish off the mixture by adding 1 shot of sloe gin and mixing it in, then spoon the mixture into the tin.

Add the saved damsons to the top of the bake, along with a handful of chopped walnuts, sprinkle them both on, they don't have to be perfectly placed, then pop the cake into the oven and bake for 1 hour, till a skewer comes out clean.

Once you've removed the cake from the oven, use a cake skewer to poke small holes into the cake, do this several times. You'll be dousing the cake in a further 2 shots of the sloe gin, allowing it to seep into the cake whilst it cools. To do this I spooned the sloe gin using a small teaspoon, drizzling it all over the top of the cake, then leave the cake in the tin for an hour to cool.

Once cooled, remove the cake from the tin, the baking paper will help you to remove this rather easily, then simply place the cake onto a wire rack to cool and your scrumptious bake is ready to eat!

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food.