Monday, 9 April 2018

A fond(ant) farewell from Cake Porn, for now..

It's been a scrumptious few years running my cheeky little cake blog, but as with all good things it must inevitably come to an end, at least for the time being...

It's a fond(ant) farewell though.. over the years I've learnt so much. Heck my baking has vastly improved as a result of starting this cheeky little blog, as I've gone from a world of baking disasters, to cakes so delicious that I'm often harangued by friends and family with baking requests – yes, even my gluten free cakes!

But it's been a difficult journey at times, especially since my coeliac diagnosis started, even longer when I look back at the health problems that started my long struggle with gluten and dairy... My baking has changed so much as a result of my dietary and health needs since starting this blog.

Since starting Cake Porn a few years back a lot has certainly changed. I've learnt many new baking techniques, tackled the world of yummy free from bakes, and visited some rather lovely, scrumptious cake shops and tearooms as a result of this blog. Discovering some amazing fellow bakers along the way, and picking up some tasty new recipes as a result – not to forget cooing over their yummy cakes...

It's been a long journey, one that started as a side-thought whilst admiring the cakes and cocks background on Sarah Millican's “Chatterbox” one evening – and thus Cake Porn was born! Before then my (mis)adventures into the world of baking were somewhat eyebrow raising at least, every single disaster and hilarious problem that I've looked into on this blog has actually happened to me during my many years of baking.. - we've all got to start somewhere!

Over the years of posting my latest bakes, tasty finds, and sharing some of my favourite bakes for you to coo over on social media, I've come to learn a lot, and I'm certainly grateful for the experience, and improvements that it's helped me to make with my own baking.

But over the past couple of years in particular, behind the scenes it's been somewhat of a struggle keeping this blog going, especially during my long coeliac diagnosis. Blogging about it along the way certainly helped, but there's still been those days where it's just been a struggle juggling maintaining the blog alongside everything else.

Earlier this year, following my coeliac disease diagnosis back in October - I also discovered that I have osteopenia. It felt somewhat like hitting a massive brick wall, and it's certainly affected my dietary choices since. As such I've been baking far less than usual, and struggling to find the motivation to create some scrumptious new treats for this blog, whilst also managing the many changes to my diet that this has introduced.
 

It's not just that though, countless other problems alongside my health issues have made the blog a bit of an upward struggle these past couple of years. I've always managed to re-find my baking mojo as such, but this year it just seems to have gone into hiding.

As such, I've decided for the time being at least, to put this blog aside. I'll still be posting on my Cake Porn social media profiles though - sharing my favourite cakes for you to coo over with me, alongside fellow coeliac bakers scrumptious recipes, and any other yummy finds that I discover. So it's not really goodbye, it's just a slight change for the time being. As I put this blog aside for a while, and concentrate on getting my health back, whilst also still tending to my sweet tooth alongside!



For now it's a fon(ant) farewell, as who knows, maybe I'll be back posting sooner than you think after a much needed break. In the meantime, I'd like to thank my fellow cake fanciers for continuing to follow my baking shenanigans over these past few years - from sharing your latest bakes with me, recommending tasty new places to visit (I will eventually get round to visiting them - promise!), sharing my latest posts, and of course, cooing over tasty cakes with me - it's certainly been appreciated over the years! 🍰

Friday, 16 March 2018

Cherry muffins : Gluten and dairy free.

A great staple bake that's deliciously simple and easy to make. Making for one tasty batch of gluten free treats.

Easy to adapt to use whatever filling you prefer – whether it's dairy free chocolate chips, dried fruit, or even just a tasty dollop of jam hidden in the mix! Simply swap the glace cherries for your preferred filling and bake away. 

This recipe makes a dozen small muffins, or nine larger muffins if you prefer. Simply bake them however you like!

Ingredients
150g dairy free margarine
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g gluten free self raising flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
150g glace cherries – chopped

Pre heat your oven to 180/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line a muffin or cupcake tray with cases - if you'd prefer to use a muffin tin without cases simply set your tray aside.

Cream together the dairy free margarine with the caster sugar till pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix.

Sift in the gluten free self raising flour a little at a time - I find that this is a little less messy adding 50g at a time and mixing it in. Add in the xanthan gum and mix.


Then add your glace cherries - dust them in a little of the flour first, then stir in to mix. Leave a few aside to top your muffins before baking.

Spoon the mixture into the cases/tray, then place a glace cherry half on top of each muffin. Bake for 15-20 minutes till risen and golden.

The muffin mixture will rise over the glace cherry halves a little - some may be completely covered, but you'll have a yummy batch of tasty muffins to tuck into!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Pear and polenta cake : Gluten and dairy free.

Since being diagnosed I've been trying out lots of new cake recipes and baking ideas, using polenta in my bakes has certainly become a new favourite of mine – it's so much easier to use than I'd thought, and it adds a lovely texture to the finished bake.

This yummy bake makes the most of some scrumptious polenta, mixed in with ground almonds for a naturally gluten free bake. Add in some pears, and you've got a tasty treat. As much as I love apple cake, this makes for a tasty variation on a ground almond and polenta bake. Is it a dessert or a cake? Who cares, either way it's one tasty bake!

Ingredients
200g pears (approx 2 pears)
75g dairy free margarine
60g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g ground almonds
50g polenta
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp baking powder

Before you start baking this scrumptious cake, start by dicing the pears. Two fresh pears should be enough for 200g - simply half and slice the pears into cubes and set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4, and line a round 20cm cake tin. 

Cream together the sugar and dairy free margarine till pale and fluffy - use whichever dairy free margarine you prefer for this bake.
Sift in the ground almonds, polenta, ground ginger, and baking powder and mix to blend.

Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well. Then finally, add in the diced pear and stir well.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-35 minutes till risen and golden, and a cake skewer comes out clean. In my fan oven this cake took 25 minutes.

Remove the tin from the oven, and let the cake cool down before removing from the tin. Why not place the tin on top of a wire rack to let the base cool down easily - you can remove it even quicker then, so you'll soon be tucking into this tasty cake!

Once cooled, simply sprinkle some icing sugar on top to finish, then serve. This tastes great on it's own, or why not try it with some dairy free custard!

Recipe adapted from: Veggie Desserts.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Scrumptiously simple gluten free recipes for the newly diagnosed coeliac.

We've all been there, after that first diagnosis the mild panic sets in that you'll never be able to scoff on your favourite cakes and sweet treats again. You've heard terrible things about gluten free bakes - from the cake that's so hard you could use it to break a window, to the forever crumbly cupcake that turns to dust the moment that you start eating it.. but that's thankfully not always true, there's always a handy free from recipe that will result in a scrumptious bake every time..

Whilst it may seem like too much to take in at once when you first face life without gluten, it doesn't have to mean the end of tasty baked treats. Making the change to gluten free will take time and plenty of practice - all of us will have a disastrous bake from time to time, but it's all about embracing a whole new world of yummy gluten free bakes, and finding your own techniques and favourite recipes to try.

After more than a few failed gluten free cakes and bakes in the kitchen I've come to find my own particular favourite recipes that are handy for a quick and easy bake, as well as being perfect to adapt for a wide variety of different flavours and ingredients.

Cupcakes
Always handy to add to your recipe file for an easy gluten free bake. A simple batch of cupcakes is an utterly scrumptious treat!

For a great starting base for a batch of plain cupcakes, you can't beat this handy recipe by Doves Farm - whilst it may refer to them as fairy cakes, this recipe can easily be used for a dozen cupcakes instead of the recommended 24 fairy cakes - simply just fill your cupcake cases as you usually would!

It doesn't require any specially made blends either, just a simple bag of gluten free self raising flour will do. The recipe is remarkably similar to what you'll already be used to with any standard cupcake recipe, so it's incredibly easy to follow.

This recipe also makes for a great starting point for any batch of cupcakes, it's easy to adapt – I've used it myself as a base for some of my favourite bakes, like these chocolate orange cupcakes. It also works perfectly substituting the required butter in the recipe for a dairy free alternative, it's just a straight swap!

Cake
A classic staple that's always handy to add to your favourite recipes - you just can't beat a tasty sponge cake!

The base recipe is surprisingly simple - just because it's gluten free doesn't mean that it has to be difficult to make! This recipe from BBC Good Food is incredibly easy to follow and doesn't require any special blends or mixtures to bake, just a handy bag of gluten free self raising flour. 

It's great to adapt for a dairy free version too, simply swap the butter for a dairy free alternative and your good to go!

Even classic cake recipes can be made easily with a gluten free version, they're often far closer to the traditional bake than you'd expect. Whether it's a staple loaf of tasty banana bread - made incredibly easily, in-fact you'd probably barely notice the difference - or a scrumptious chocolate cake, with a couple of simple changes making for one rather tasty bake.

Tips for extra tasty gluten free bakes
Once you've perfected the basics, you can start to experiment adding tasty twists and extra ingredients to make some truly scrumptious bakes. Why not try adding some ground almonds in with a batch of cupcakes? Simply swap 50g of flour for 50g of ground almonds in the bake, you'll be surprised with the results!

Try the same with a sponge cake, by swapping 100g of flour for 100g of ground almonds - resulting in a lovely light bake. 

For the perfect rise every time, ensure that you pre-heat your oven first. You don't want to leave gluten free cake mix sat around whilst the oven warms up, it bakes best when placed straight in the oven as soon as you've spooned your mixture in your tin/cases - it's a little thing that makes a huge difference, as I've experienced from several failed bakes myself!

You don't always need to use xanthan gum to stabilize your bakes, but it does help. Over time you'll get used to when you need it with your bakes. Generally speaking it doesn't tend to make a huge difference with cupcakes and cakes, but if your baking biscuits, cookies, or tray bakes it can be a huge help in the mix - ensuring that your bakes survive a day or two before the dreaded crumble sets in.

No two gluten free flour blends are the same - you'll be surprised just how much choice there is when you start baking gluten free! For the first few bakes a basic self raising or plain flour mix is the best to try, such as Doves Farm, or a supermarket own brand blend. I've not found much difference between them, but I have found Doves Farm, or M & S's gluten free flour to have the best results.

A good gluten free cake doesn't have to require lots of additional extras to make it extra tasty - just a bit of practice and you'll soon be baking some scrumptious gluten free treats. Why not try some of my favourite tried and tested recipes here on the Cake Porn blog!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Free from cakes and bakes : A handy, scrumptious guide to chain coffee shops.


We've all been there, you find yourself in a sudden hangry moment with few options to choose from – but where is safe for a peckish coeliac to tuck into a tasty treat, where can you sip upon a deliciously dairy free cuppa without fear of a sudden lactose induced dash to the nearest loo...

These days it feels like negotiating a minefield, but thanks to trial and error over the years, I've put together this handy updated guide to some of the country's most known chain coffee shops to help you along the way.

I'd already took a look at free from coffee shop bakes a couple of years back, but as can be expected with most chain coffee shops, menus have changed, and dairy free options have vastly increased since then. Whilst we are lucky to have more options than previously before, it's still feels like a long slog trying to find out what exactly is safe to eat when you suffer from a food allergy, intolerance, or autoimmune disease. 

There's still plenty of room for improvement with the majority of chain coffee shops, but needless to say, at least some of them are trying to make those changes. So what tasty free from treats can we expect to find on the high street of late?

One of the countries largest coffee shop chains – where your almost guaranteed to find at least one or two within a city centre, Costa, has introduced a small selection of free from cakes and bakes, alongside food on the go, to their coffee shops.

Whilst finding the necessary details about these treats can prove to be a bit of a long winded task, with very little menu options now listed on their site, you can at the very least download their dietary information guide.

It will take a bit of scrolling through to find the options available for your needs, but their guide is thankfully more thorough than other chains – listing items that contain gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, and plenty more options to negotiate the minefield of allergens.

For fellow coeliacs, a long scroll through will reveal a few options to snack up'ont, including their new paradise slice - a vegan friendly, fruity bake, alongside their chocolate brownie (this does however contain dairy and eggs), and their cherry bakewell mini tarts (these are unfortunately not vegan). Other free from choices are available also, including their fruity crumble bar, granola square, and flapjackshowever, these contain oats so are not suitable for coeliacs, with the exception of the fruity crumble bar which does contain gf oats – however, if like me even gf oats disagree with you, it's best to avoid it.

Snacks chosen, you'll be wanting something to go with your tasty treat, like most chain coffee shops Costa do offer dairy free milk alternatives, with soya milk available for their coffees and teas, alongside the new addition of coconut milk – meaning that you can at the very least sip on a latte. The majority of their drinks can be made dairy free, but it is worth checking the allergy guide for any sneaky allergens in those syrups and flavourings before ordering. 

The next choice up is Starbucks, their choices really are pretty slim, and try negotiating their allergy guide.. it took some effort to even find it at first! 

There's not a huge amount of choice for a free from treat, with their chocolate brownie being their standard gluten free choice – this is however not dairy free or vegan. It also has a tendency to be stacked out in the open near their wheat filled bakes, so maybe not the best option when your trying to avoid cross contamination...

Your safest choice is the pre-packed treats on the counter, usually ranging from a fruit mix, to a dark chocolate bar – both of which are also dairy free/vegan. Milk chocolate coins are also available, these are gluten free but not dairy free/vegan. Your local branch may also have additional choices to buy at the counter – it should go without saying, always check the ingredients.
 
So, with few snack options in choice, your safest bet is to probably take your own snacks with you and grab a drink instead.. but that can still involve negotiating a minefield of problems.. Dairy free milk alternatives are available, with a larger choice of options available than Costa – offering soya, coconut, almond, and oat milk. However, some of the additional options such as syrups/flavourings may not be dairy free, so it's best to check their allergy guide first. Their oat milk is also best avoided for coeliacs, as this has been made with non-gluten free oats as stated in their allergen guide – this does unfortunately leave open a minefield for cross contamination with the drinks making process, so I'd advise using your own personal judgement here.. Personally, I always opt for a cup of tea instead if I find myself at a branch of Starbucks now.. but that's just me!

Next up for more free from choices, is Caffe Nero, their online menus offer a handy allergen guide making it easy to find those safe choices to snack on, whatever your dietary requirements.

For fellow coeliacs, a chocolate brownie is available (unfortunately this is not dairy free/vegan), alongside a vegan option of an apple & blackcurrant crumble bar which contains gluten free oats. Sadly, that's where most of the choices end of late, with an additional snack choice of a dark chocolate bar, dried fruit, or chocolate rice cakes (these are  not dairy free/vegan). 

For drink options as per most chain coffee shops there is at least a dairy free milk alternative of soya milk, however it is best to check the allergen guide as some syrups/flavourings do contain milk. So much like Starbucks, your best option may be a cup of tea with soya milk – this is usually my default choice.

Next up is Patisserie Valerie, whilst they may only have a small selection of free from treats, it is worth noting for fellow coeliacs. With their selection of gluten free cakes in store being a great contaminant free choice – all coming in their own sealed individual packs!

These are sadly not milk free or vegan, but they are worth noting for an additional option if you are coeliac/gluten intolerant.

For drink options, it may not be listed on their site, but some branches do also offer soya milk in store – just ask, I have found one or two branches offering it. Fruit tea blends are also available on their menu, and all of the tea blends can come without milk also. 

Whilst not initially a coffee shop per say, Pret is another option for free from choices on the high street, with handy allergen guides available on their site.

They may have few options to choose from, but they do offer a vegan brownie which is also gluten free, alongside their chocolate coconuty bite, and a sea salted dark chocolate bar (this does unfortunately contain milk, so it is not vegan).

For drinks, much like other chains they also offer soya milk, alongside oat milk – this is however made with non-gluten free oats so is unsuitable for coeliacs. Much like Starbucks, and Caffe Nero, I'd advise going for a milk free tea, or a tasty tropical green tea instead.

Finding allergy info online for other high street coffee shops and chains can be pretty difficult, so it's best to ask the staff in-store at places such as M & S, John Lewis, and Debenhams, which do offer some free from options, mostly being pre-packed cake bars and slices such as Honeybuns, and We Love Cake. Dairy free drink options can vary between each place, but soya milk is usually available at most – as always, do ask the staff if you are unsure. 

All failing, it's not the best option, but I find keeping an emergency snack or two in my bag helpful when visiting a chain coffee shop with friends – sometimes there may be few and far choices for a free from treat, so it's always handy to keep something in your bag just in-case, so you can at least grab a cuppa! Keeping a sachet of lacto-free milk on the go is always helpful if your lactose intolerant - I always travel with at least one to hand! 

For fellow coeliacs, my best option is always Patisserie Valerie for their handy individual cakes, for a dairy free option Costa is the next best choice, alongside Caffe Nero for a vegan option. Whilst, there is still a long way to go for free from options on the high street, it's worth noting that some improvements have at least been made at a couple of places, but it's pretty disheartening to see little efforts made to reduce cross contamination at some chains, so I'd always advise using your own personal judgement when your craving a dairy free latte and a free from treat.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Scrumptious banana and chocolate muffins : Gluten and dairy free.

If like me you've got a ripening pile of bananas that were bought in an attempt to be 'healthy' over the festive period that immediately failed, then you may want to treat yourself to a tasty batch of these banana muffins - besides, there's still some fruit in them!!

These muffins are a rather yummy way to use up an over ripe banana - now you just need to worry about what to do with the rest of them.. They're made even tastier with a helping of dark chocolate in the bake, giving these muffins a rather scrumptious flavour.

Ingredients (makes 9 cupcake sized muffins)
125g dark soft brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g gluten free self raising flour
pinch of xanthan gum
1 ripe banana
100g melted stork
20g grated dark chocolate

For the frosting
100g stork
180g icing sugar
30g grated dark chocolate
glace cherries to top

Pre heat your oven to 190c/180c fan/gas mark 5. Line a cupcake tray with cases.

Whisk together the sugar with the eggs till blended, add in the vanilla extract and mix.

Sift in the gluten free self raising flour a little at a time and blend, adding the xanthan gum with the final measure of the flour to mix.

Prior to baking you'll want to melt the stork down in a small heatproof bowl, add the banana in with the stork and blend to a squishy, mushy mixture. Spoon this into the flour mixture and blend.

Finally, add in the grated dark chocolate – this adds a yummy taste to your bake! Then stir to mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each around 2/3 full. Then bake for 15-20 minutes till a skewer comes out clean - in my fan oven these took 15 minutes.

Place on a wire rack to cool for an hour or so. 

Once cooled, you'll want to start making your tasty frosting to top the muffins. This simple frosting adds some more grated dark chocolate into the mixture, giving it a rather scrumptious finishing touch!

Mix the stork with half the icing sugar till combined, then sift in the remaining icing sugar and whisk. Adding the grated dark chocolate to finish, and whisk well to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice, then pipe swirls on top of each muffin - finishing them off with a glace cherry half.

Recipe adapted from Phil Vickery's “Essential gluten-free”.