Are you being healthy this year? We’re trying to be, but that’s not why I discovered this recipe! You see my sister is sugar obsessed – as in the NOT eating sugar, obsessed. It’s not a weight issue for her. She looks after her teeth. She avoids sugar at all costs and has these runs of being completely sugar-free. The most recent one was eighteen days! Each time she re-starts she tries to get a longer chain.
I have to say that she’s on her own there! Even though Mr MT and I are eating a healthier diet, I still have one treat a day and it ALWAYS has sugar in it. But when you know that your sister is on a long chain and the family is coming round for Friday night dinner, you want to find something that everyone can enjoy for dessert. That’s where these Sugar-free, oaty banana cookies come in.
The best thing about this recipe is that it ticks so many boxes – sugar-free, dairy-free AND vegan. It’s all good. Also, once cooled they’re cookies but eat them 10 minutes fresh out of the oven and they’re lovely and warm served with ice cream for a dessert and that’s exactly what I did when the family came round.Also, as a side note I reheated them for 10 seconds in the microwave a few days later and drizzled them with honey (no judging-I said I loved sugar!) and they were deelish!
You see I think there is a theory that if you get the balance right you can use banana to mush practically anything together! Oats and banana just work don’t they? And they are naturally sweet and sugar-free to boot! It’s a win, win! I wonder what they’d be like with a touch of cocoa? Hmmm?
3 ripe banana (mine were 270g once peeled) mushed up
200g rolled oats
20g ground almonds
120g dried/medjool dates- chopped into small pieces
85ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanillia extract
Make sure the bananas are well mashed then add the rest of the ingredients and mix in well.
Set to one side for 15-30 minutes. This allows the wet ingredients to saturate the dry and form a solid mix.
Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC Fan oven) and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Use a ice cream scoop to grab some of the mixture and place on the baking sheet leaving a little space between each one. They don’t rise as much as spread a little.
Bake for 20 minutes until the edges start to brown slightly. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely. They are delicate and will fall apart if handled straight out of the oven. As they cool they become more stable to be handled.
So, you may have noticed that the blog isn’t looking its usual yummy self at the moment, Well, it would seem that someone tried to hack into the backend of the blog and deleted the entire thing – all six years and 315 blog posts of it!!! My tech support managed to get it back up again but all the images and charts have been lost from the site. I do have them in back up but the current system isn’t letting me upload them back onto the blog again. So, as it stands you can still see most of the recipes and words but not the images or charts.
I will be redesigning the blog in the new year – with photos of deliciousness, but in the meantime, if you are looking for a
Oooooh don’t you just love a mini Christmas cake? I made some last year as gifts and they went down really well. This time I decided to give them a touch of Jack Daniels and I have to say they are gooooood!
I made these ones for a local food bank on behalf of the charity I bake for Free Cakes For Kids. Lots of bakers have made lots of mini cakes so lots of families would have a special cake and it always feels great to be giving and baking for others at this time of year- don’t you think? If you want to join in the fun check out the FCFK website to find your local group. I’m yet to find a group of bakers who aren’t really friendly!
I made these cakes really last minute (meaning I didn’t start in October so I could ply the cake with alcohol) so I had few cheats. I soaked the fruit in the JD for a week before baking the cakes and once they were out of the oven I gave them another really good brush/soak with the good stuff. If you add the alcohol while the cake is still warm the liquid soaks right in. I think a Christmas cake still tastes great even if it hasn’t been drowned in alcohol for weeks or months before.
Once baked I decorated half the cakes with marzipan and white sugarpaste and the other half with just the sugarpaste so there were some nut free options – also so I could eat the marzipan that was left over.
How to decorate Christmas cakes the non traditional way.
I didn’t want to go for red or green decorations this year. My original plan was to have a little forrest of sugarpaste Christmas trees standing on top of the cakes but once I had decorated one I realised that they would be really difficult to transport to the food bank and for the families to take home too so I opted for a 2d version.
The Christmas tree decorations were made up a day ahead in pale blues, pink and white so that they could be layered up without drooping. The gingerbread men were also made up ahead of time. After 24 hours the faces were drawn on with a clever food dye pen in ‘liquorice’ black. The trees and gingerbread man were then stuck in place with a little royal icing.
To give the cakes a really professional finish I placed ribbon around the cake and wrapped them in cellophane. I was really happy with the end result. I hope the families will be too when they pick them up later this week.
I wrote this post before I delivered the cakes to the food bank. I feel now looking back that I brushed over the food bank part. For me this was supposed to be about sharing my recipe for a Jack Daniels Christmas cake. It is in fact about a lot more than that. There are so many people in need in our country and right on our door steps. You may not even be aware that there is a food bank on your high street, in your church or by your community centre. These places are amazing. They’re run mostly by volunteers and the people who need them are often in dire situations.
When I delivered these cakes I met with a band of very jovial volunteers who are loving and caring and so, so knowledgable. There was a young mum who was there as I dropped off. She was collecting a couple of blankets from the centre. She had been housed in the hostel around the corner. The week before she had left a violent relationship with nothing but the clothes on her back and her teenage daughter. She had nothing. She was housed in a hostel so they were safe. The hostel is an amazing resource with a bedroom and some furniture and a kitchen along one wall but that’s it. It’s very, very basic. No bedding, no plates, no comforts. I’m sure she was grateful for a safe and warm roof over her head but having just spent a few hundred quid on presents for my two daughters to then see this young woman with so little but still with a grateful smile on her face was incredible humbling.
So I’m asking you to do something and not just now – for the foreseeable future. When you’re doing your food shopping pop an extra tin of something or a bottle of shampoo in your basket and leave it in the food bank bins which are always situated just behind the checkout. All the big supermarkets have collection bins and the extra pound or two probably won’t make much of a difference to you but it will make a massive difference if we all do it for others.
I love making cakes for Evie. Apart from the fact that she’s lovely, she is ALWAYS smiling. She always says “hello” when we walk into school (and I mean says hello to me- not just Darcey!) and she always chooses fab cakes that I’ve never made before. This year she was having a swimming pool party – obviously! So a swimming pool cake was definitely the right choice of cake.
I’ve made a few cakes for Evie before and if you remember then you probably know that she’s coeliac. That’s why I love making her birthday cakes. You don’t get cakes like this in the supermarket. I basically use my Madeira cake recipe as seen in this chart and swap the flour quantity for 50% gluten free flour and 50% rice flour. I find that mixing up the same quantity of flour needed in a recipe with a mixture of gluten free flour, rice flour or almond flour comes out light and tasty.
Designing the Swimming pool cake
I wanted to keep the design simple so I made the main part of the cake the swimming pool. I baked a rectangular cake and cut it into three layers then cut away the centre of the top layer. Raspberry jam and buttercream were added and the whole cake was covered in pale blue sugarpaste. I had to make it quite thick to be able to handle getting into the corners of the pool.
I wrote ‘Evie’ in my fave script and left it to dry for a few days. I mixed it with some Tylo powder so it would really firm up (and quickly). A square cutter was used to make tiles which we placed around parts of the pool.
Rope was made with white sugarpaste strands which were twisted together and stuck on at the corners.
The splashes were made from a ball of sugarpaste which was brushed with gelatine to give it a glossy effect. The Evie was also brushed to give shine.
A life saving ring was made from white and red sugarpaste and left to harden.
To make the ‘water’ I made up some gelatine and let it cool before I spooned it into the pool. What I hadn’t banked on was that the tiles I had stuck in the bottom of the cake would bubble up and kind of soften and start to dissolve. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was how the gelatine would set. I thought it would just firm up like jelly. It didn’t. It wobbled a bit like jelly but when I had to drive the cake to the pool party it had moved and jiggled creating all these white lines. I was mortified but Evie’s mum said that the waves looked great. Pfew! Lucky save.
To finish off I added grey bars which I painted with edible silver paint and stuck them onto the side of the pool along with another life ring.
Having learnt my lesson making this mermaid cake I kept Evie in a little better proportion and just made the top half to place in the pool.
The bunting was literally a last minute idea made from decorative paper, string and two skewers.
I kinda like this cake. I think the water worked but it’s all the splashes and the ‘Evie’ in a big dribble of water that makes it for me. What do you think?
So go on then. How many times have you carved a pumpkin and don’t even bother to scoop out the insides? We’ve all done it but this year – like last, I scooped out enough to feed a small army and that was with just one daughterling. The other one didn’t even get her’s carved! Teenagers! So we have a whopper of a pumpkin to use and it’s the second week in November. So, I did what every good cake blogger does. I baked!
Every year I give my mum the pumpkin flesh as she makes killer chutney with it but this year I made a cake and still had plenty left over to share. This pumpkin cake is really moist and quite heavy. It’s a slow bake cake and is the kind you could use to stack for a tiered cake. Perfect for an October wedding cake maybe? Think of it as a carrot cake made with pumpkin. It’s topped with a cream cheese frosting – the recipe for which I got from Jane Curran, the food editor on Woman&Home. It’s the only cream cheese frosting recipe I use. It can’t be beaten. It also lasts a long time. Once decorated we were still eating this cake a week later and it was fine.
I know, I know. It’s been a while since I last posted. And even then the months before were a bit…. let’s just say sporadic. After 5 years of blogging practically every week I had a bit of a ‘moment’.
I stopped making birthday cakes for friends.
I stopped baking.
I just stopped everything.
So I thought I’d share what’s been going on and explain.
You see blogging takes a lot of time. Seriously a LOT. Apart from stopping to take shots of cakes I’m decorating – which seriously slows down to the whole 9 hour decorating process. It takes me around two hours to edit, label and tag the images, make openers and do all the behind the scenes SEO stuff and a further hour or two to write up the recipes and share the details. And my grown up work got busy. I just stopped finding the time. I didn’t get up at 6am at the weekend to do my blogging. I slept in. Something I never do.
So what happened?
At the beginning of the year I decided to start a cake podcast. I joined a podcasting community and got two terrific accountability partners. I had logos professionally designed. I bought a top notch microphone. I’d drawn up lists of all the great cake/bakers I could interview. The whole shbang. And then I felt flat. I wasn’t excited about it. I mean I REALLY wasn’t excited about it. Something wasn’t sitting right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then it hit me. I’m an Interior Stylist who bakes. I’m not a cake decorator or a real baker. I’m amateur and just because I have this terrific audience (and you are terrific) it doesn’t mean that’s what I want to be known for. I want to be known for my styling work. So I pivoted.
I had this sudden realisation that I wanted my podcast to be about Interiors. In doing a lot of thinking, planning and research I had my idea ready to execute but instead of just setting up a podcast it has turned into a fully fledged business idea. It has taken a lot of my time and a lot of planning but what actually happened is I just stopped baking and blogging in general. I’m still building that business idea now and it will be launching it at the end of the year.
Around this time my styling work got busy. The busiest it’s ever been. I went from shooting once or twice a month to shooting every week from the moment the girls went back to school in September till – well it’s still going on now in November. I’ve literally had back to back shoots with no time for anything else. It’s hard to explain my work as it’s all encompassing. It’s not the kind of thing you can just switch off from. I work from home and around my family’s needs and a lot of the time there are so many props in my house it looks like a junk yard! I use the kitchen as a painting studio and write my copy late into the night so I can do the gymnastics/drama/cubs/scout runs and I just haven’t had the desire or bandwidth to bake. These are a few shots of my kitchen mid shoot/press launch. Eughk!
I did bake. I baked a lot. Each time I thought “I should shoot that and share it on the blog” and it got eaten up so I didn’t. That’s happened a few times in the last few weeks and a strange thing happened. I got the joy of baking back. I find I’m looking for any excuse to bake. There’s a pumpkin cake, white, dark and cherry chocolate cookies and vanilla biscuits sitting in my kitchen right now. I have always found baking relaxing and now I think I will be putting a load of weight on!
So what I am trying to say is I am back but a little less often. I love writing this blog. It’s my baby. I know I have followers and I have lots of hits each month but I really didn’t think anyone would notice if I stopped writing and posting. I was wrong. So many people have asked if the blog was broken or if I had given up or why they weren’t receiving posts anymore. I nearly did give it up. I nearly sold this blog. But I couldn’t. I just love it too much.
So here’s to another five years or more of baking. Let’s get fat together!