Spiced milk and honey cake

It can be really difficult to find people that perfect gift at Christmas, especially if you are buying for a lot of people, which is why I regularly resort to the thing I do best; something edible! Giving a handmade gift is both thoughtful and cost-effective, and definitely won’t be something they have already. Whether you whip up a stack of cookies, a batch of festive fudge, or my most recent favourite: a whole cake.

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A whole iced cake in a pretty tin makes a perfect gift. Choose a cake recipe that will stay fresh for a week or so (a ginger cake or fruitcake is perfect) rather than a light sponge that will dry out, as this gives the lucky recipient enough time to enjoy it. I love these Dahlia themed tins from Laura Ashley’s Christmas collection with their golden lids – they look fantastic stocked full of cake and tied with a bow to give away (or keep for yourself!). Their cake forks and cake slicer are also gorgeous, with porcelain handles that match the tin.

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My recipe of choice this year is my spiced honey and milk cake. It is really simple to make, keeps everyone from the youngest to the oldest happy and keeps for 1-2 weeks when stored correctly, which is ideal gift-giving territory.  I’ve thrown on a few festive sprinkles, but you can decorate with whatever you like – a sprinkle of cinnamon works beautifully!

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Spiced honey and milk cake


Recipe adapted from Crave, available on Amazon or high-street book shops. Blog post written in partnership with Laura Ashley.

Mixed peel polenta cake

Spring is peeking out from behind the clouds and I couldn't be more ready! It's this point of the year that I attempt a quick spring clean, and discover any ingredients lurking at the back of my cupboard that haven't been used since Christmas. Mixed peel is one such ingredients. It seems to go into every single festive recipe, yet is left redundant for the 11 months that follow, and will likely have dried out my the time you next come to use it! It sounds a rather ordinary ingredient, but weaving it into the batter of this polenta cake transforms the small pieces of leathery peel into chewy nuggets of citrus flavour, almost like sweets. 

To me, cakes fall into two categories. You’ve got your light-as-air, tea-and-cake style numbers, often dainty and delicate, and then you’ve got dessert cake. Dessert cake should be a different encounter: dense, eaten with a spoon and suitable to drench in cream or custard. A polenta cake is all these things – being beautifully stodgy and sticky, but matching it with orange and lemon makes it light and moreish at the same time.  My version is topped off with cheats candied peel – tubs of shop-bought peel tossed in chunky pieces of  sugar. A perfect dessert for me is a generous slice of this cake with a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the side and a scattering of pomegranate seeds or fresh raspberries – an indulgent yet refreshing end to a meal. 

Give it a try and let me know how you get on!

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Mixed Peel Polenta Cake

Written for Waitrose Weekend

Serves 10

Ingredients

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
3 Waitrose British Blacktail Medium Free Range Eggs
200g ground almonds
100g polenta or cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest 1 orange
75g mixed peel

FOR THE SYRUP
3 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of 1 orange

FOR THE SUGARED PEEL
25g mixed peel
1 tsp granulated sugar
 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 3. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, then fold in the orange zest and mixed peel.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface, place on a baking tray. Bake for 50-55 minutes until risen and fairly firm (it will have a very slight wobble in the middle). Test the cake using a skewer – it should come out clean when inserted into the centre.

4. While the cake is baking, make the orange syrup. Place the sugar and juice of the orange into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. When the cake is baked, remove from the oven and, while still hot, brush the warm syrup all over it, then leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The cake may sink slightly in the centre, but this is normal for polenta cakes.

5. To finish, make the sugared peel by shaking together the candied mixed peel and granulated sugar in a sealed ziplock bag until well coated. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, then serve generous slices as a delicious dessert.

Source: https://www.waitrose.com/content/waitrose/...

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Something that might surprise a few of you: there is only one food I won’t eat. Bananas. Ever since I was a young child, they are the only food my body can’t handle.  I’ve tried many a time to rekindle our relationship, attempting to eat bananas in many guises, but it never worked. Banana bread, however, I’ve always admired and longed to enjoy. Soft, squidgy and sweet, it’s all the things I love, so I was determined to find a way to make a loaf that I love.

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It goes without saying that peanut butter makes everything better, so incorporating spoonfuls into my batter, which I make by sautéing the bananas in butter and sugar to caramelise and soften them, was always going to be a hit. I didn’t quite realise how much of a hit though; I was thrilled that I’d made a loaf including banana that I actually enjoyed eating, but my housemates RAVED about this cake. It’s moist and sticky, buttery and chocolatey with notes of caramel running through the whole thing.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread