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… 


 

 

dream.....dream dream dream

Very long (week-long...it's a big ask, I know) drumroll please.... as next week I'm going to finally have a proper Cake of Dreams website up! To celebrate I'll be popping a recipe up for my Mexican Chocolate Cronuts. YUP. They are pretty spectacular.... so make sure you check back or your tastebuds will never forgive you. Ever. 

'hot day at the beach' cake by Cake of Dreams

'hot day at the beach' cake by Cake of Dreams

In the meantime if anyone's got an excuse for a party, however weak, check out some recent work on the Facebook page or get in touch via hello@cakeofdreams.co.uk. I would love love love to bake you a cake. Or a cronut. Or ten. Your call.

A lemon cronut and a blueberry bakewell walk into a bar...

A lemon cronut and a blueberry bakewell walk into a bar...

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!

Eating the dream

I am now an official full time baker (!!), and the baking me - Cake of Dreams - has been very busy this past month. Here are some of my latest bakes. Now I'm feeling hungry, fantastic...

L-R from top...1. Red velvet supreme with black chocolate marshmallow frosting, for Gus... 2. Strawberry & Lavender buttermilk cake...3.  Chocolate donuts and Lemon cronuts for brunch....4. Cronuts are now my new favourite foodstuff...5. Lemon meringue & vanilla fruit tarts...5. Birthday cake for Roman & Claudia...6. Violet meringues...7. Red velvet supreme for Katie...8. Chocolate fudge with salted caramel buttercream...9. Top view of Gus's cake. 

My Cake of Dreams website is still being finished, but I'm taking orders at hello@cakeofdreams.co.uk

 

Party doll

My very glamorous friend Fiona invited us to a perfect children's tea party for her gorgeous and amazingly named littles, Sholto and Esmerelda, at the magical Meanwhile Gardens. It was actually real life summer in England this weekend (of course it was, I wasn't at Glastonbury to wallow in its true suntanny drinking-outdoors glory) and Fiona supplied a very on trend tie dye bucket of Pimms, starry sandwiches and two enormous cakes - one Abney & Teal themed one dotted with little edible neeps, the other rainbow layered and eye-wateringly girly. Charming. Pablo ran around for about two solid hours in the rad outdoor paddle pool thingy and I ate all the kids sandwiches when nobody was looking. Indy pottered about looking delicious in her new threads (thank you, Liberty sale!) Meanwhile Gardens wins top marks for a kids party venue, helped only slightly by the sunny sun. Driving home through the aftermath of London Pride in a hot Saab at supper time was less enjoyable, but luckily I got to escape to London Fields for margaritas with the girls. Check out Fiona's fabulous blog Joy as it Flies for all sorts of stylish musings and reviews from someone with two small children who gets out a lot more than I do. 

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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an apple a day

Pablo's much loved childminder, Lucinda, moved away a year ago and we were very excited when she asked if she could pop down for a visit. Obviously we had to make a cake, but with a miserably poorly baby a trip to the shops was not going to happen. I scoured the cupboards and we had just the right amount of this and that to make this delicious apple cake. It was extremely easy and Pablo helped me lots. Indy did the opposite by tugging on my leg and looking pathetic throughout, but we got there in the end...

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Caramelised Cinnamon Apple Cake

100g butter + 1 tbsp
175g brown muscovado sugar + 1 tbsp
2-3 dessert apples
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
100ml milk
TOPPING:
25g flour
85g demerara sugar + 1 tbsp
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
50g butter
3 tbsp toasted sliced almonds

recipe adapted from BBC Good Food 

Heat oven to 160C. Mix the topping first - flour, demerara sugar, cinnamon butter with your fingertips to make sticky breadcrumbs. Pablo did half of this, but once he began threatening to eat hunks of sugary butter from his fingertips I chucked it all in a food processor. Stir in 2 tbsp of the almonds and set aside. 

Cut the apples into 1.5cm-ish squares. Melt the 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp sugar in a non stick frying pan and then add the apples and cook for about 5 minutes until everything is brown and gooey and yummy smelling.

Make the cake by creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, then add the vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and alternate adding them and the milk until all is well combined. Grease a springform 8in/20cm tin and line with a circle of parchment on the bottom. Spoon in your cake mix and then sprinkle with the topping. Mix your remaining 1 tbsp demerara and almonds together and sprinkle these on top. Bake for 45ish minutes. Cool ten minutes in the tin before removing, then cool on a wire rack until it's time to indulge.

the ones i love

Valentine's day is always a fun one. If you're single you can indulge in either extreme margarita drinking or embarrassingly girly film & cookie binge, if you're partnered up you have a whole extra day a year to get presents and be all about love. Boyfriends and husbands rarely really indulge much in this little celebration of romance for the sake of it, but once kids come along there are whole new people to shower with love, and chances are they are into any excuse for a party. Pablo was so taken with the idea of a whole day devoted to love that he really did spend all grinning and telling Indy and me that he loved us, and announcing "Happy Calens Day!" to everyone else, because he couldn't quite grasp the word 'Valentine'. He also insisted on making a valentine for his best friend Edie "because I really REALLY love her!" 

We kicked off with heart-shaped pink pancakes, then I dropped Pablo at Montessori and spent the next few hours running about like a lovecrazed fool on Valentine's errands. Pablo gave Edie her card and balloon after school and she said "Pablo, why did you give me this balloon?" to which he replied "because I love you..." HEART MELT. Then they scampered down the street shouting "I LOVE YOU PABLO!" "I LOVE YOU EDIE!" at maniac volume until we had to separate them by extreme force at the park gates, and they both had a bit of a sulk. 

After school cupcake and after dinner strawberry and marshmallow mousse for some extra sweetness. We saw the dentist the next day, and she said his teeth were fine... phew. 

Eventually I got my lovely husband home and we managed a whole uninterrupted steak dinner and a bottle of wedding champagne. He brought me a dozen dark red roses. I am really very lucky. And in love.

He's a keeper...

He's a keeper...

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...