These are a few of my favourite things

cactus flower

Baking and sunshine, sunshine and baking…probably my two bests in the whole world. Apart from maybe a very good margarita on a lovely evening with lovely friends. We're a week back from our yearly soaking of Vitamin D at my mama's beautiful little homestead in Spain. Whilst we were there we had a little birthday bash for my mama - al fresco pasta and sangria with the neighbours, who all brought drums and guitars and friends and kept us dancing under the shooting stars. I made a cake (of course), and took the excuse to make one I've been wanting to try out for ages. The original recipe is from the gorgeous Deliciously Ella, and I altered it slightly….and also somehow managed to make it without the luxury of a food processor, so mine was a bit lumpier but just as divine. It's completely gluten/sugar/dairy free and there wasn't a crumb left uneaten…I promise it tasted totally incredible. It's also quick and easy to make. Total winner.

Smug Chocolate & Strawberry Birthday Cake 

for the cake
5ish small sweet potatoes 
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup gluten free self raising flour (I like Dove's Farm)
1 cup medjool dates (pitted)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt

for the icing
5 ripe avocados 
1 very ripe banana
1 cup medjool dates (pitted)
3 tbsp raw cacao
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 cups strawberries
handful of almond flakes
edible flowers and desiccated coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the sweet potatoes, chop into chunks and steam for about 20 mins, until they are really soft. In a large bowl, mix the ground almonds, flours, cacao, cinnamon and salt and set aside. 

Prepare the icing by blitzing all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Or, in my case, pop them in some strange manual chopper and attempt to blitz them until they are as un-lumpy as you can manage… Pop the icing into a bowl, cover and keep in the fridge. 

Place the soft, slightly cooled sweet potatoes, dates, vanilla bean seeds (scraped from the pod - discard the pod), maple syrup & water into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Stir this into the dry ingredients until well combined. Prepare three 8" cake tins (I actually think this would be rad even taller in 6" tins, but that might just be me) by brushing with coconut oil and lining with parchment circles. 

Sitting in the hot hot sun whilst you mix the cake is optional but really helps, I find...

Sitting in the hot hot sun whilst you mix the cake is optional but really helps, I find...

Spoon the batter into three separate tins (I like to measure it out with scales to make sure all three have an even amount) and bake for about 20 mins, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tins 20 mins, then invert onto a cooling rack until completely cool. 

Chop your strawberries and layer your cake with strawberries and the creamy chocolate frosting. I sprinkled some lightly toasted slivered amends and desiccated coconut between the layers too, and topped the cake with more of those plus some yummy edible flowers. Keep in the fridge until serving. ENJOY! God I want to eat it again, right now… 


 

 

Happy Birthday Edie

incredible monster cake by Edie's mama Hannah, complete with lollipop eyeballs galore

incredible monster cake by Edie's mama Hannah, complete with lollipop eyeballs galore

Two little parties for Pablo's best best best friend Edie, one after school cupcakes in the park and the other a superhero pizza party at the Vestry House Museum. Supermen everywhere, and a rare opportunity for Pablo to scamper about with his lovely Montessori pals. Happy 4 beautiful Edes!

crush of the year

It's my birthday tomorrow!! Obviously the best gift going is another year with my scrumptious fam, and an obligatory waffle & strawberries breakfast tower. But here, for kicks, are the presents I'll be opening in my dreams...

1. Love Coconut by Honore des Pres so I can smell like an actual coconut. Essential. 

2. Karen Walker sunglasses because her site is awesome, and I am lusting after about six different pairs. Go have a look-see if you dare...

3. War Is Over! poster  You can download this poster for free in a zillion languages from the Imagine Peace site. Now if someone could just print it for me...and frame it... 

a 4 year old lives in my house...

Four whole years of Pablo to celebrate. He has never not been wonderful, but at 4 he amazes me every day with his humour, intelligence, kindness, sweet nature and impressive dance moves. He is the most adoring and patient older brother and such a thoughtful and affectionate son and friend. Feeling very lucky to be able to share my days with this little dude and his wild imagination.  

The party was to be a jungle birthday boogaloo bbq and demanded an Enormous Crocodile cake so large that I was collapsed in despair at 11pm the night before the birthday as I finally sat down to ice it and realised it wouldn't fit in our fridge assembled. Giant megathanks to local friends with an enviable double doored fridge who saved the day. Pablo got so many incredible presents from his horde of lovely friends, the kids shed their jungley getups and whizzed round the garden nude spraying silly string and trampolining into the giant paddling pool, I managed to sit down and drink half a bottle of prosecco with some like minded parents... a good birthday. 

little one

We had a beautiful first birthday & naming party for Indiana and so many gorgeous friends and family came along. Rebecca, Theo, Mark, Katie D and Katie C were made godparents and helped fill a time capsule for her to open at 18. Lots of pink treats to eat and drink, and Indy adored being the centre of attention and swanned about flirting with everyone all day. 

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raspberry ripple birthday dreams

My gorgeous husband had his latest birthday on Monday, and we were under strict "no presents" instructions, so Pablo & I conjured up a home made gift of his favourite raspberry ripple ice cream and a hand-crafted card. Then I decided that if we were making ice cream we may as well make an ice cream cake (a first for me!) Our freezer is now full to bursting with raspberry ripple but Konch had a lovely birthday and we all made ourselves feel a bit sick eating too much cake.

latest bake

Three layer red velvet with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle cherries for Gemma... now excuse me whilst I deal with day six of the hangover from her birthday megaparty...

strawberry milkshake cake

My lovely friend Jennie is always so patient and generous with her time when it comes to helping me out with little sewing projects (and teaching me how to make amazing quilts! Well, her quilts are amazing. And so are her classes - bookable here) that when she offered to spend her actual birthday helping me to prep a quilt for Pablo I thought it would only be right to make her a big old cake...

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Jennie is one of the more colourful folk I know (literally - she was dyeing her hair turquoise as we sewed) and made a special request for no chocolate, so I was excited to have an excuse to hunt out a suitably colourful cake. As usual, Sweetapolita did not disappoint and I went with an adaptation of her Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

350g Granulated Sugar
85g Strawberry flavoured gelatin crystals (don't be a moron like me and get block jelly. I had to send husband on a last minute urgent errand to buy crystals and all he could find were raspberry vegetarian jelly crystals, which worked perfectly, just fyi...)
227g unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
300g cake flour (this is not widely available in the UK - see tips on how to make your own here)
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
240ml whole milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
60ml strawberry puree (blend a handful of slightly defrosted frozen strawberries)

Preheat oven to 170C. Line 3x6in round cake tins with parchment and flour, tapping out any excess. Ensure strawberry puree is not icy, then combine with milk and vanilla. In a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and jelly crystals until light and fluffy. I usually cream the butter a minute or two on its own first to make sure it's soft enough, or this can take ages... Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. 

Add eggs to the creamed butter and sugar one at a time and mix well after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything is combined. Next alternate adding your dry ingredients and strawberry milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Mix well between additions but be careful to only mix until combined, not over mix. At this stage I also added a couple of drops of Americolor Neon Pink gel colour to give the cake an extra pink kick. 

Divide the mix between three pans. I thoroughly recommend weighing the batter so that this is as exact as possible. Bake in preheated oven approximately 30 minutes - my oven is pretty hot, but I recommend carefully (and speedily) checking the cakes with a skewer after 25 mins and keeping an eye on them every 5 mins beyond that. 

When the cakes are done, leave them in the tins 10 mins before transferring to racks to cool completely. Then make the icing!

250g unsalted butter, softened and in cubes
330g icing sugar
10ml milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
30ml strawberry puree (as above - it can be cold but make sure it isn't icy)

Whip the butter for 8 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add sifted icing sugar slowly with the milk and vanilla and mix on slow 1 min and then on high for 6 more. Then add the strawberry puree, and a drop of pink gel colour (optional - and you can of course add more than a drop! Just be aware that the colour does add a slightly yucky taste, and that it MUST be gel colour or you will be adding too much liquid). 

Stack the cakes and ice generously between layers before doing a very thin crumb coat to cover the whole cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for 30 mins before removing and applying a thick final coat of icing. 

The cake was DELICIOUS, really moist and tasted just like those naughty strawberry milkshakes I'd get at the seaside as a kid. It also looked pretty spectacular in all its pinkness. Definitely one to make again. Two large slices was probably a bit much but I needed to keep my strength up for cutting all those quilt squares...