Baked

Lemon Thyme Loaf Cake

With the huge changes that life is going through I now spend most of my days at home alone working from home part time and crafting, baking and gardening the rest of the time (with naps and G&Ts thrown in for good measure!). Baking has always been something I do that brings me joy and that’s doubly true when I can share my bakes with those that really appreciate and deserve them. As my OH is a doctor and is still working as normal I have been baking regularly for him and the team at the hospital, I hope it brings a little slice joy to these everyday heros in our NHS.

This bake is a firm favourite with my OH and seeing as we had lemons and thyme leftover from our Sunday Roast Chicken it was perfect simple bake to make and share! This recipe is slightly adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book which is full of amazing cakes and is my go to baking book.

Ingredients

Makes one 8in loaf.

For the cake

  • 190g butter
  • 190g sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp of finely chopped thyme leaves (remove the stalks)
  • 3 eggs
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 25ml milk
  • 1tsp lemon essence (optional)

For the drizzle

  • Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of 1.
  • Thyme sprigs
  • 50g sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and grease a 8in loaf tin, if your tin is not silicon use a strip of baking parchment across the length of the tin so you can lift your cake out easily.
  2. Cream your butter until its light and fluffy then add the sugar and mix together well.
  3. Add the lemon zest and chopped thyme leaves and mix through.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well between each one, the mixture may look curdled but don’t worry the flour will fix this! If your using the lemon essence add this now.
  5. In a seperate bowl mix the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder and salt, together and add in two parts with the milk between each half of the flour mixture. Mix until combined and then fill your loaf time smoothing the mixture over so it is level.
  6. Bake for 40mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. While the cake is baking make the drizzle by combining all of the ingredients in a pan and let it reduce by approx half to make a sticky drizzle that can be spooned over the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.
  8. After removing and covering with the drizzle leave to cool in the tin. Once cooled completely slice and enjoy!

Hope you enjoy this bake and all his lemony goodness! Are you doing some baking during this pandemic? I’d love to see your bakes and creations, so share some love and leave a comment!

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This post contains affiliate sales links, which allows me to make a small amount of money if you chose to purchase anything via the links I have provided.

Baked, Hooked

Craft as a Mood Booster

I have read several articles in the last year or so about how being creative can have a positive effect on mood and can help those that suffer with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. It is something I wholehearted agree with and I have personally experienced the positive effects it can provide.

I have in the past suffered with anxiety and low mood, I also work in a very stressful sector which has left me unwell and struggling with my mental health on several occasions. During many of these difficult times I have turned to creative outlets partly to give my mind something else to think about and partly as a way to help me process my feelings and thoughts. During one very difficult time when I was really unwell with stress and anxiety throwing myself into lots of creative diy projects for our wedding day really saved me. I know that sounds dramatic but if I’d not had all those projects to focus on I know I would have spiraled to a very dark and lonely place where even leaving the house would have been too much.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

When I underwent carpel tunnel surgery and due to being bandaged up and in pain I wasn’t able to do any baking or crochet it had really had a negative effect on my mood. When I was finally able to pick my crochet hook up again and do some creating I felt so much happier and relaxed. It had such a therapeutic effect on me and despite having to stop every few rows because of the pain and stiffness I persevered and it was actually a very productive time crochet wise!

I am more than ever relying on my creative outlets during this current pandemic and the lockdown we are all living through. I am so grateful that I have something I love doing that is still safe for me to do at this time. Being able to crochet, bake and craft allows me to escape the reality of the current world situation with Coronavirus even if only for a short while. I am also so grateful that I have the resources to be able to continue with my creative hobbies (having a healthy stash of yarn and other craft resources has never been so helpful), I know I am lucky to be in a situation where I can purchase yarn, patterns and other craft supplies, support small and local businesses and the capacity and space for my creative hobbies at home. I know that these things are not true for all and I am really heartened to see lots of small creative businesses finding ways to support crafters who are currently experiencing financial and other uncertainties.

One example is Verity of Truly Hooked with her pay it forward scheme for her pattern books, where you can buy a copy of her book so she can gift it to someone who cannot afford to buy it themselves. If you want to do this you can head to her website here and purchase her books, you find all the details of this initiative on her Instagram @trulyhooked too. I recently bought her Off the Hook book and I can’t wait to make some of the gorgeous garments in it!

In these dark and uncertain time crafting and creativity is more important than ever and we, as a community of creatives, must foster and promote craft and all of its benefits when and wherever we can. What does crafting and making give you, does it have a positive effect on your mood? Share some love and leave a comment to tell me all about how craft affects your mood and what you are doing at the moment to support your mental health.

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Baked

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream

Last Easter I made this gorgeous Coconut and Mango cake and while all the mango touches were delicious but the Coconut cake just didn’t pack the coconutty punch I wanted! With all the craziness at the moment with the world fighting Coronavirus I knew I wanted to send a treat to the hospital where my OH works as a Haematologist so it was a great opportunity to perfect my Coconut Cake!

My issue with last years cake was the coconut taste was a bit wishy-washy so I took the basic recipe inspired by and ramped up the coconut flavour.

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Italian Meringue Buttercream

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Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Italian Meringue Buttercream

Coconut Cake

Makes approx 22 cupcakes (alternative suggestions for 2x 8in cakes can be found in italics)

Ingredients

  • 170g butter
  • 300g sugar
  • 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks (save the whites for your buttercream)
  • 315g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75g desiccated coconut
  • 1x 400ml tin of coconut milk, 225ml for cake (remainder makes the glaze and flavours the buttercream)

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC fan oven (200ºC for standard oven). Put cupcake cases in your muffin tins.
  2. Weigh all dry ingredients including the desiccated coconut and stir to mix, put to one side.
  3. Beat the butter till light and fluffy then beat in the sugar.
  4. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time and mix until combined.
  5. Remove 2 tbls of the coconut solids and put to one side for the coconut drizzle. Measure out the liquid from the can and add enough solids to make it up to 255ml, give a good stir to mix the solids into the liquid. Save the rest of the solids for the buttercream.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and coconut milk, taking it in turns starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Ensure to mix all the ingredients in fully put do not overmix, due to the desiccated coconut the mixture can look a bit lumpy or curdled but it is fine.
  7. Fill each cupcake case two thirds full, this mix made approx 22 medium sized cupcakes. Bake for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
    • Alternatively this mix would make 2x 8in round cakes, adjust your baking time if doing this. 
  8. While the cupcakes bake mix the 2 tbls of reserved coconut solids with 3 tbls of sugar and 75 mls of water in a small saucepan, heat until all ingredients have combined and the mixture has become a syrup. You may need to adjust the amount of water you add depending on how solid the coconut solids are. Once the cupcakes have cooked let them cool in the tin for 5 mins they cover thinly with the coconut drizzle and leave to cool completely.
    • For a 8in round cake, let cool for 10 min and remove from the tin then cover with the coconut drizzle, you could also reserve some to cover any trimmed surfaces of your cake with before filling. 

Coconut Italian Meringue Buttercream

Yields enough buttercream for 22 cupcakes (this would be enough to fill and decorate the top of an 8in cake, if totally covering the cake adjust the recipe to make 1.5x as much).

As always my Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe is based on this recipe by American Heritage Cooking, check out her post as it has loads of tips for making the buttercream and even includes photos if your a newbie to Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Ingredients

  • 225g sugar
  • 90 ml water
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
  • 270g butter
  • Coconut solids (remainder of the tin)

Method

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until it reaches 238ºC using a sugar thermometer.
  2. Add the egg whites into a clean mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, add a pinch of salt and cream of tartar if using. It is important that the bowl is completely clean otherwise your egg whites will not whip up. Whisk until firm peaks have been achieved.
  3. You want your sugar to reach the correct temperature at the same time as your egg whites reach firm peaks, so adjust the speed of the mixer or the heat on the sugar to achieve this. If you reach firm peaks before the sugar is ready (this is usually what happens for me) reduce the speed on the mixer, do not switch it off though.
  4. While still mixing the egg whites on a medium speed, pour the boiling sugar in a steady stream down the side of the mixer bowl, take care here as the sugar is super hot and you don’t want to let it hit the whisk as its going around as it can cause the boiling sugar to spit out at you.
  5. Once you’ve added all of the boiling sugar turn the mixer up to high and keep whisking till the side of the bowl feel warm to the touch. This takes approx 10 mins but depends on the amount of meringue in the bowl and the room temperature.
  6. While your waiting for the meringue temperature to reduce weigh out and cube the butter. Once your meringue has cooled enough add the a butter cube at a time giving each cube a squeeze as you add it. Keep whipping the buttercream till it comes together and is silky and fluffy in texture.
  7. Add the remainder of the coconut solids leftover from the cupcakes and whisk in completely.
  8. Once your cupcakes are completely cooled you can pipe them with whatever piping tip you like and then enjoy!

These babies were sent off to work with my OH this week and I really hope they provide a little moment of joy for all of the Haem team and make them feel a little bit appreciated in this challenging and draining time for our amazing NHS staff.  I am planning on baking something each week for our NHS heros during this pandemic because I want to show my appreciation for all of their hard work. Are you doing some baking during this pandemic? I’d love to see your bakes and creations, so share some love and leave a comment!

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Hooked

Garment Crochet

I have been crocheting for probably 6 years now and other than hats, scarves and the odd pair of hand warmers I have always been a little scared of making garments. All that shaping and fitting that is required in tops, cardigans and jumpers made my head hurt a little and I just felt my crochet skills were not good enough to tackle something so challenging!

But moving to a new city meant I sought out a new place to shop for yarn and on discovering the multi award winning Knit Nottingham and it’s amazing owner Eleanor I final felt I could tackle this new challenge. Eleanor is a real fountain of knowledge when it comes to yarn, knit and crochet patterns and is always happy to help troubleshoot and support her customers. I can’t recommend her and her wonderful shop enough and if your ever in Nottingham go and visit! By the way they were recently one of the shops being redesigned Interior Design Masters on BBC 2 too.

So with some delicious yarn under my arm and a sense of confidence in my abilities I started on a new journey in crochet – garment making! I decided to start simple and raided my impressive crochet magazine collection for potential patterns that would be a good starting point. I chose the Wilderness Top by Linda of Eleven Handmadeand used some gorgeous King Cole Riot DK yarn in Rhapsody. I made a few changes to the edging at the bottom and on the sleeves plus edge the neckline.

This was such a lovely and fast to make project and it really gave me the bug for garments! I am already planning on making this top in a solid cotton (as the original pattern suggested!).

More recently the cute Dreamboat Bolero byTheodora of theodora goes wild caught my eye and I decided to raid my stash of yarn for something suitable, I went for some Rico Baby Classic DK yarn I had in a selection of blue shades. I also made a few adjustments to the pattern as I didn’t want the waistcoat style and slightly changed the edging.

I already love this piece and have worn it several times since finishing it! It was a pretty quick make, the edging around the body of the cardigan did take a bit of time. This yarn is lovely and cuddly and makes this cardigan super comfy to wear. I can safely say I well and truly have the garment making bug and have already started a cute crochet dress in flower inspired motifs!

What have you made that was a real challenge? I’d love to see your garments and be inspired by you makes so share some love and leave a comment!

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Baked

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Espresso Italian Meringue Frosting

This cake recipe has become a firm favourite in our house recently and I’ve made it into a layer cake and cupcakes with great success! It’s a delicious rich bake with a strong espresso hit from both the cake and frosting, I was inspired by this recipe but have made some tweaks and switched to Italian Meringue Buttercream (my new favourite!).

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Chocolate Espresso Cake

I’ve stuck pretty close to the Sugar Coated Cottage recipe here but chosen to use melted butter rather than oil, if your wanting the oil version (which I have made and was still yummy I just prefer the extra richness of butter) her recipe is linked here.

Ingredients

Makes 12 cupcakes, to make a 3 layer 8 in cake double this recipe.

  • 175g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g melted butter
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla paste
  • 1 lungo Nespresso pods or 125ml instant coffee brewed and cooled.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F) and prepare a 12 hole muffin tin with cases if your making cupcakes or lightly grease and line 3 8 in cake tins if your making a layer cake.
  2. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer and stir through to mix (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicard and salt).
  3. Melt your butter in the microwave (go gently and do it in 10 second blasts), once melted add the eggs, vanilla paste and cooled coffee and whisk gently till fully mixed.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and with your mixer on low mix until well combined, scrap down the sides to make sure all the ingredients are mixed.
  5. For cupcakes fill each case 1/3 full (don’t be tempted to add more as these cupcakes rise really well and you’ll end up with mountains!). If your doing a layer cake pour the batter evenly into your 3 cake pans.
  6. For cupcakes bake for 25 mins, for layer cakes bake for 35 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. As this cake is quite a dark brown care needs to be taken to not let the top burn while cooking, if need be cover the cake with foil to protect the cake from over browning on top.
  7. Allow the cupcakes or layers to cool completely before frosting. If your doing a layer cake trim the 3 layers to ensure they are flat ready for filling and layering up.

Espresso Italian Meringue Frosting

This frosting is literally the most gorgeous coffee frosting ever! I am now fully converted to Italian Meringue Buttercream and sort of think all other buttercreams and frostings pale in comparison to this light and smooth buttercream! It is a little bit more work than basic buttercream but it is totally worth it! It keeps for a week in the fridge and freezers for up to a month so if you’ve any leftover or make a big batch save it, when your ready to use your chilled/frozen buttercream let it come to room temperature overnight. This buttercream can be rescued even if it looks split, just take a little and blast for 10 seconds in the microwave then add to the split buttercream and whip either by hand or in your mixer and it should come back together beautifully. This tutorial from American Heritage Cooking gives a ton of tips for making the perfect Italian Meringue Buttercream, if your worried about making IMB for the first time its an amazing starting point with all the information you need to make silky, smooth buttercream.

Ingredients

Makes enough buttercream to frost a 3 layer cake completely or 36 cupcakes. It is possible to make less by reducing the number of egg whites and all the other ingredients proportionally.

  • 5 egg whites
  • 375g sugar
  • 150g water
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 450g butter cubed
  • 1 lungo Nespresso pod or 75ml of very strong instant coffee cooled

Method

  1. Ensuring you have a really clean bowl for your mixer add all the egg whites and a pinch of salt and set up with the whisk attachment on your mixer, don’t switch on yet.
  2. Place the sugar and water in your saucepan and heat on a medium heat stir gently till the sugar is dissolved (I usually do this by gently swirling the saucepan). Once the sugar is dissolved atop stirring.
  3. Start your mixer to whisk the whites and keeping heating the sugar. The aim is to get the sugar to 235 degrees at the same time as you achieve firm peaks with the whites. This usually takes approximately 5-10mins but if your sugar is heating too fast you can turn the heat down or if the mixer is almost at firm peaks you can turn the mixer down (just don’t turn off completely).
  4. While your waiting for the sugar and whites to be ready weigh out and cube your butter and leave at room temperature (this will mean it’s not hard when your ready to add it without being super soft).
  5. Once you have firm peaks and your sugar is up to temperature (I always use a sugar thermometer to do this). Turn the mixer to low (you don’t want to splash hot sugar syrup on yourself) and with a steady stream pour the sugar down the side of the bowl in one go. This can feel a bit daunting at first but trust me go steady and calmly and all will be fine!
  6. Turn the mixer up to medium once all the sugar has been added and continue mixing until the side of the bowl feel barely warm to the touch (times vary here but usually takes 10mins approx to cool).
  7. Once cooled enough add your butter one cube at a time, give each cube a little squeeze as you add it and allow it to be fully mixed in before you add the next cube. Continue until all the butter is added and keep mixing to form smooth and silky buttercream. If it starts to look split it maybe because it too cold try placing a warm tea towel or your palms on the bowl to warm it slightly.
  8. Now you have your basic buttercream you can add flavour. Add your coffee slowly, and optionally 1 tsp of vanilla paste, the mix resists the coffee initially but keep mixing and stop and scrap the bowl until the coffee combines with the buttercream. Taste and add more coffee if need be – we like it strong with coffee flavour in our house!

Now it’s time to decorate your cupcakes or layer cake! This buttercream pipes beautifully so feel free to use any tip you like to create the effect you want. For cupcakes I like to pipe a generous swirl then decorate with gold and silver sprinkles or sugar pearls. For a layer cake a pipe small swirls in a boarder around the edge of each layer then fill the middle (I don’t bother doing swirls here as you won’t see it). I then stack all the layers neatly finishing with swirls over the whole of the top of the cake (I didn’t pipe or cover the sides of my cake but you could easily do this as this buttercream smooths beautifully for a crisp smooth cake). Then sprinkling with gold and silver sprinkles, sugar pearls or chocolate sprinkles to decorate.

What treats have you been getting obsessed with recently and remaking several times? I know this cake is going to remain a family favourite for some time to come, I’d love to hear what bakes are family favourites so share some love and leave a comment!

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Baked

Autumnal Naked Wedding Cake

November last year was an epic month for me and I was very lax in telling you all about it! First off I made a wedding cake for my lovely sister-in-law and her now husband who got married at the gorgeous Bassmead Manor in St Neots. A few day later we moved house and city and finally I got a new job (which I started in Jan). So to say it’s was a busy month is an understatement!

So the wedding cake, I can’t believe I am actual able to say “I made a wedding cake!” Wow what an honour and huge responsibility but I have to say I am ridiculously proud of what I achieved over 2 days even with whole tiers being remade and buttercream failures to contend with (damm marscapone buttercream!). I will blog soon with all the details of my recipes and my tips for DIY-ing a wedding cake, but here she is in all her glory!

I stacked and decorated the cake the morning of the wedding with the assistance of one of the other bridesmaids and the cake held up beautifully till it was time to be cut. Incredibly every last slice of cake was eaten on the night, something I still can’t believe but put it down to there being 3 flavours of cake to try; Pumpkin and Carrot Spiced Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Lemon and Blueberry Cake, and White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake all finished with Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream.

This one was a real challenge and probably the thing I am proudest of creating! What have you been making that your proud of? I’d love to hear about those challenging creations that make you feel a little crazy to be attempting so share some love and leave a comment.

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Baked, Hooked

New year, new beginnings?

I am a bit late to the party seeing as we are already in March but I am to feeling settled into 2019 and what it has in store for us! 2019 feels like it holds a lot of promise and “newness” for me and my family and after a tough 2018 it’s nice to feel like the slate is wiped clean.

Remembering and reflecting on 2018 has been emotional for me, it was a year of real highs and lows and so much change it left me exhausted at times. I started the year in a very dark place and had to make one of the toughest decisions of my life to leave my job as a teacher as the stress and pressure was making me both physically and mental unwell. Deciding to walk away for my own health and wellbeing was so incredible hard and in the moment I felt great guilt and grief that I had to admit defeat. With the passing of time I have gained perspective on both what I was going through and my decision to leave and I can say hand on heart it was the best decision I have made (bar marrying my OH) and I have no regrets. In the aftermath of leaving that job I re-found my creativity, something that had got lost among planning, paperwork, stress, pressure and never-ending to do lists! Reconnecting with this part of me was so incredibly healing and rewarding, over the weeks and months I felt the darkness lift and the stress that had engulfed me evaporate. Each cake I baked, each crochet stitch I hooked brought me back to life.

Newness began to appear in our lives, OH got a new job in Nottingham and I prepared to sell our house and move us there. We had the pleasure of special birthdays, weddings and christenings to attend with family and friends. I challenged myself to make my Sister-in-law’s wedding cake (I will be dedicating a post to this very soon!). We said goodbye to Sheffield and our lovely home to move to Nottingham. I decided that teaching in a school full time wasn’t what I wanted and got a job working as an Early Years Practitioner in a private nursery.

2019 has already bought more newness to us in the form of another new job for OH as a Haematology Consultant and with that comes the hope that this move to Nottingham will become for permanent. I am getting stuck into my new job and already love being part time! Here’s hoping there will be many more bakes and makes to share with you as this year progresses. A few projects that are brewing include my geometric shawl inspired by the quilts of Libs Elliot, 2 ABC blankets for expectant friends, cookie recipe development and so many plans for cakes!

I hope you started 2019 full of hope and newness just like we did! I’d love to hear what plans/creations/projects you have got brewing this year, so share some love and leave a comment!

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