Category: Christmas

Gingerbread man wreath – the perfect Christmas gift

Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.comHave you ever been on the website before? It’s jam packed full of tons and tons and TONS of recipes, loads of inspiration and a cake or two! (See here and here if you’re interested!)  They’ve really revamped the website since the last time I was on there. Now there’s an array of baking images to greet you from the get go. And if you’re looking for a touch of Christmas baking gift inspiration – I’m thinking teachers here, then there’s loads of choices there too.

Beau and Darcey always want to give ALL their teachers a Christmas gift, so that’s their class teacher, the teacher who has them when their class teacher is planning, the teacher’s assistant, the teacher that helps them with extra maths or English…. the list goes on and on and let’s face it I’m not made of money and I love to bake, so it’s a no brainer really. Enter and their gingerbread man wreath. How cute it this? Such a simple idea.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to be set the challenge of making one of their Christmas recipes to share with you guys (in exchange for a box load of flour, essence and some yummy Bilington’s sugars- thanks you guys!)

When the BakingMad team asked me which recipe I was going to make I said the peppermint candy canes, then the chocolate fudge cake and then finally I decided that it had to be this wreath. I have actually made the chocolate cake too but more on that in another post! Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.comThe wreath was super easy to make. You simply cut out  the shapes – I made some from gingerbread men and snowflakes. Place the biscuits on a sheet of silicon paper. I used circles of paper so I could follow the shape of the paper and keep it neat. Once all in position I gave the holding hands a gentle press just to make sure they stuck together whilst baking- and they did. I was surprised how well the wreath held together once baked but then I did make pretty thick biscuits!

Once out of the oven I threaded ribbon through the gaps. I made a few extra gaps with a metal skewer and finished off with a bow. Cute hey? I have to say that I really enjoyed making these. I was singing away to myself the whole time! Gingerbread man wreath with

So, that’s the teachers sorted – now for the rest of the family!

Gingerbread man wreath with

So what are you guys making for gifts this year? I’d love to know.




The perfect Hamper :

Lakeland hamperLook what arrived earlier this week! A beautiful gift wrapped hamper. I love it when a company takes the time to make a gift look extra special. I was really impressed.

Now, I love a hamper and what’s more it’s usually because of my love of baskets and wicker more than loving the contents, but when it comes to Lakeland hampers you know you’re onto a winner.

Lakeland hamper

But just look at this. It’s white with a black fabric lining!!! My mind was whirling with the endless storage possibilities this basket could be used for – Darcey’s bedroom cupboards (that’s how I keep her shelves organised- removing the lids and using them like drawers)? my work props?, shoe storage? toy storage? I just couldn’t decide. But all that storage thinking went right out the window when I opened it up.

Lakeland hamper

It was packed full of lovely French food. You know what hampers are usually like? There’s always something that you would never in a million years want or choose- dodgy piccalilly / another christmas pudding that no one will eat / strange flavoured tea! Well this hamper had a great selection and between Tim and I we were really happy with every single thing in it. This is what it contained.

  • Cornouaille AOC Apple and Cider Jelly .
  • Traditional Country-Style Pork Pâté
  • Rillettes of Breton Sardines .
  • Apples à la Bretonne Caramelised in Salted Butter .
  • Pure Butter Breton Cookies from Pont-Aven .
  • Strawberry and Rhubarb Traditional Extra Jam.
  • Cream of Scampi Soup with Muscadet and Guérande Sea Salt.
  • Pure Butter Breton Biscuits .

As it is so late in the day (Christmas wise) I think this hamper has probably sold out but I thought I would share it with you all as you still have time to order any other last minute gifts from Lakeland to arrive in time for Christmas and with wrapping like this who wouldn’t? Check out the Cottage delight collections or the Brie baker gift set. They both look delish, but I think top of my list would be something a little less edible! Look at these hemisphere cake tins in different sizes! (Tim are you seeing these???- not so subtle hint there!) I can think of a ton of uses for them.

Make sure you order by 12pm on Thursday 19th December to get your order in on time, or you can always click and collect. What’s more delivery is free if you order over £30 worth of products. so what’re you waiting for? Finish off that Christmas list now!


Top 10 baking books, the one’s you’ll want under your tree.

TOP 10 baking book giftsYou can never have enough baking books can you? Every one has something different to taste and each one can inspire a whole meal, cake or just give you that excited feeling we get when we find something that just makes out mouth water. This list is a combination of the ones I have that I reach for all the time and the ones that I really want to get my hands on. They would all make the perfect last-minute Christmas gift so, in no particular order….

1. Lorraine Pascale:

A lighter way to bake

A Lighter Way to Bake

This is one of those books that’s at the top of my wish list. There’s something very fresh and exciting about Lorraine’s recipes. The book is broken up into Breakfast and brunch with recipes like raspberry and banana no-knead bread and Apple and apricot spiced hot cross buns then goes on with Bread -Honey and oat bread anyone? , Savoury bakes like butternut squash, basil and onion Quiche, then Puddings and desserts– I fancy the plum and almond frangipane tarts with sticky Amaretto glaze- how good do they sound?  Cakes– there are ten to choose from, Cookies and traybakes – I’m really into tray bakes at the mo. Teatime treats – these are cupcakes recipes, meringue kisses and scones. Mmmmm, Special occasions and entertaining these are recipes for parties and Christmas. The Cashew, cranberry and spice biscotti caught my eye. Pastry and basics – ooooh sweet honey shortcrust pastry. I want some!

So in other words it’s jam packed. Just a quick“click to look inside this book” on Amazon with all the beautiful pictures and I was hooked!

2. The Humming bird Bakery cookbook

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

This is a book I had my eye on for quite a while, but as I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes I didn’t get it till really recently. I’m so glad I did. I think the reason I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes is because I’m never happy with how they turn out. This book puts an end to all that!

It’s broken up into more than just cupcake recipes. There are cupcakes – obviously, cakes, pies, brownies and bars, muffins and cookie recipes and I have to admit that it is so much better than I was expecting. I thought it would just be more of what you can get in the shop and it is – but more!

The recipes look really delicious and there are so many to choose from. You can put inches on your hips just drooling over the pages. The lemon Meringue pie looks particularly appealing as does the chocolate cheese cake (an old favourite of mine)and the nutty apple loaf.  They can keep the green tea cup cake though! I’ll stick to the pumpkin ones and black bottom cupcakes instead.

I think this is going to become another fave on my cookery book shelf. I’ll report back!

3. Delia’s Cakes

Delia’s Cakes

How do I only own one Delia book and that is the ‘How to cook’ which I picked up for 99p at a charity shop! This is a book I should have! It was first published in 1977 so it’s 35 years in print means her recipes can definitely stand the test of time! This new edition with it’s modern day makeover has been tested for gluten free recipes too which is brilliant. I’m always looking for good gluten free recipes.

Delia Smith has a way of explaining the reasons why we mix/whisk/fold a cake to get the best results. The book has loads of beautiful photography show casing her recipes. The sections are Sponge cakes, loaf cakes, family cakes, little cakes, muffins, biscuits, chocolate cakes, celebration cakes and dessert cakes.

 I NEED this book.

4. Great British Bake Off: Everyday

Great British Bake Off: Everyday: Over 100 Foolproof Bakes (The Great British Bake Off)

I have to say that I have two of the British Bake off books from the first two series The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties and The Great British Bake Off: How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers and I refer to both of them all the time. I’m not normally one to go back for more of the same type of book when it comes to baking books, but I admit that I am hooked. I have found the cakes from both these books and this latest additon to be easy to make and taste amazing, always coming out perfectly so I was really keen to get my hands on this one. They also have really good food (not cake) recipes with delicious flavouring. Something I need to learn more of.  Watch out pies. I’m coming to get you! 


5. Mary Berry’s Baking bible

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

I love, love, love this book! It’s one of my favorite baking books ever. It really is my bible (that and The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook but I don’t want to put a Jewish cooking book here on a Christmas list!)

It’s my first point of reference whenever I want to bake something quick, easy and that I know will turn out well. It has so many recipes (over 250) that you will always find something new. I did a more thorough review on this book which you can find here, but trust me it’s worth every penny.

6. Paul Hollywood, Bread

Paul Hollywood’s Bread

Would you believe that in the Top 10 baking books on Amazon this Christmas, the Mary Berry/ Paul Hollywood/ British Bake off books total six. SIX!!! So it stands to reason that they know their stuff.

I have Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake book which I really liked (you can see the full review of that book here) I haven’t baked much bread,- compared with cakes, but after attempting a few from his book and having a lot of fun/mishaps when making brioche recently I am now more keen than ever. I love the way Paul explains everything in such easy to understand detail. I will make beautiful breads and this is the book to help me!

7.The Cake decorating bible, Juliet Sear

The Cake Decorating Bible: Simple steps to creating beautiful cupcakes, biscuits, birthday cakes and more

I reviewed this book when it first came out back in February this year and have refered to it often when making cakes. It’s great for cake decorating novices and experts alike. Full of inspiration and great hints and tips. It’s also really beautifully shot which makes it a winner in my book. With so many celebrity baking books on the shelves this is probably a more unusual Christmas gift which is why I think it’s a winner.

8. Leiths: How to cook or

Leiths Baking bible

Leiths How to Cook (Leiths School/Food & Wine)

Leiths Baking Bible

I was given the Leiths Baking bible for my birthday by the team at Woman & Home a few years ago and what isn’t in this book you just don’t need to know! It is huge and packed with tons and tons of recipes for ANYTHING you may want to bake. It’s really detailed and explains how things work and why they don’t, why you should and shouldn’t do certain things, what gluten does to the flour/eggs etc. It’s the kind of book you will pass on to your kids as it has everything in it you could possible need. So, when the How to cook book came out I wanted to get it for the same reason. It has everything in it from how to boil an egg to how to prepare fish/meat/poultry – even how to carve!  Each stage is explained – which when it comes to cooking I really need.   It has over 500 recipes in it and I’ve made loads from it. You can see my full review of the book here

9. Peggy Porschen

Boutique Baking: Delectable Cakes, Cupcakes and Teatime Treats

I love Peggy Porschen. Her attention to detail is exquisite. This book has both amazingly designed cakes and biscuits as well as her delicious recipes. Her Lemon Limoncello cake recipe is one of my biggest hitting posts. Her recipes are seriously mouth watering.

The book is packed full of beautiful ideas and the photography is lovely. Real eye candy. Here’s my detailed review

10. Mich Turner’s Cake Masterclass

Mich Turner’s Cake Masterclass: The Ultimate Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection

This is another book I refer to often, especially when I am baking a celebration cake. Mich’s books have tons of really useful information in them like the different amounts of marzipan needed to cover a cake or sugarpaste to cover a cake board. She has really easy to follow steps on how to create a beautiful cake and her designs are just beautiful. The book also has everything you need to know from lining a cake tin to the essential kit you need. There’s a good reason it’s called the ‘Cake Masterclass’.

Mich’s cake recipes (which come with the amounts of ingredients needed for different size cake tins) are really yummy. There are chocolate cakes, moist fruit cakes – my favorite one ever and the only recipe I use, cupcakes and tea cakes.  I made her chocolate and cherry cake for one of the layers in my sister-in-law’s wedding cake and it was deeeelish.

This is the perfect gift for a keen baker or cake decorator. I highly recommend it, if only for the eye candy.


So there you have it. Which one’s do you want? Which one’s do you have? Or are there some that I have missed off that you think should be there? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to know what’s on your list?



Mince Pie Recipe

Mince pie recipeWell, it had to be done really didn’t it? I mean how long can you have baking blog before you make a batch of mincepies? Well for me nearly three years.

I absolutely love mince pies but it wasn’t until Darcey asked for “those cakes with all the stuff inside”  (and it took quite a while to work out what she was talking about) that I even decided to give it a go. I did the usual, looked through a ton of baking books, blogs and websites and they all had various amounts of fruit/ butter/ sugar / BRANDY!!! Some sounded too sweet and some too boozy – they are for Darcey after all. So, rather than follow one recipe I decided to just go with the flow and grab whatever I had in my store cupboard. I bought a bag of mixed fruit but everything else was from my cupboard.

So whether you are making mince pies or adding some boozy juicy raisins to a cake as I am planning to do, here is a really moist and tasty mince meat recipe.


Mincemeat recipeMince pie recipe

  • 500g mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, mixed peel- you can make up any combination as long as it’s the same weight)
  • 60g dried apricots
  • 50g dried dates
  • 125g butter
  • 160g dark brown sugar
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • juice and rind of an orange and lemon
  • 1 tbsp brandy

To make the mincemeat…

  1. Measure all the ingredients except the brandy into a large saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir continuously until the butter has melted.
  2. Keep stirring for a further 5 minutes to slowly cook the fruits.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat then add the brandy and mix it in well. Leave to cool in the saucepan.
  4. Once completely cold store in an air tight container and allow the alcohol to really sink into the fruit for at least 24 hours before using in a pie.

Shortcrust pastry recipe

Mince pie recipe

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g cold butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 egg white – for brushing the pies before baking

How to make shortcrust pastry

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl
  2. Cut up the butter into small cubes then rub into the flour to form a breadcrumb consistency.
  3. Mix the water and egg yolks together then pour into a well in the bowl and mix into the flour/egg mix with a knife.
  4. Keep mixing until well blended but don’t over mix or the dough will become tough and you’ll loose that light, light texture.
  5. Bring all the crumbs together with your hands then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the mince pies

Mince pie recipe

  1. Lightly dust the wells in a fairy cake baking tray with flour. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160 fan)
  2. Roll out the chilled dough and cut out thin circles that are just a little bit bigger than the fairy cake wells in the tin. Place each disk of dough into a well and press down to make the pie base.
  3. Fill the case with mincemeat.
  4. Cut out a shape to go on the top of each mince pie. I made snowflakes but anything goes, just remember that if you are completely covering the top of the pie put a few holes in the top for the steam from the fruit to escape from.
  5. Brush the top of each mince pie with a little egg white to give it a nice sheen when it’s baked.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  7. Leave the pies to cool for 10 minutes in the tray before removing them and eating while still warm or place on a cooling rack to cool completely. You can dust them with icing sugar too.
  8. Either way devour!

So, what are you making for Christmas this year? I’d love to know.


Christmas bread and butter pudding.


Hands up who still has some Christmas cake leftover?

Hands up who’s had enough of it now? Well I’ve got a neat little way to use it up and make it even more delicious second time round!

This bread and butter pudding is really custardy and I have been eating it for my second breakfast everyday since Christmas day!  It’s really comforting and moist. I can’t get enough of it which is a good thing as Tim and the girls aren’t keen which means I’ve nearly eaten the whole thing!! I think there will need to be some serious running going on in January.

Christmas bread and butter pudding


Christmas bread and butter pudding

  • Some Christmas cake (even if it’s a bit stale) sliced up
  • 10-12 pieces of buttered bread (any bread will do. I even used pittas in this one)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 175g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream

How to make Christmas bread and butter pudding


Start by buttering each slice of bread and cutting it into triangles. It’s okay if the Christmas cake crumbles a bit. You can still use every bit.


Layer the bread in your dish so the points stick upwards then place the thin slices of christmas cake in between. The depth of your pudding will depend on the size of your dish. Mine is pretty big (22x30cm) but a smaller dish will work just as well.


Always end with a layer of just bread. By keeping the christmas pudding buried you avoid burnt bits and it gets really moist. The flavours of the cake also seep into the rest of the pudding when it is completely covered.  Set the dish aside.


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a deep bowl.


Place the milk, cream and vanilla essence in a pan and heat until it is simmering – not boiling.  Add this to the egg and sugar mix and stir well. Now you have your custard.


Pour the custard over the bread and cake till it’s completely soaked.


I like to squash it down with my hands to make sure it’s all saturated. The pudding will taste best if you leave it to soak for 20 minutes but you can pop it into a heated oven straight away.IMG_7271

The oven should be heated to 170ºC and it should take around 40-50 minutes to bake.  Oil a sheet of silver foil and place it over the dish to prevent the top layer burning before it’s baked. Then place the dish in a roasting tin filled  ¾ with water. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the silver foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. It’s done when the custard is set.


Heat your grill so it’s very hot and give the pudding a liberal sprinkle of caster sugar and grill till the sugar melts. Watch this like a hawk. It will burn very quickly.


It tastes best warm from the oven with cream, ice cream or custard on the side. I would have liked to show you what this looks like when it was cut into but I managed to throw my camera across the room on Christmas day and now have no working lenses!  But it looks and tastes great. The Christmas cake takes on a whole different texture. It’s soft and raisiny without being too fruitcakey and the best bit is when you come across a hint of nut or alcohol.


Happy Christmas cake bakers

Happy Christmas 2012


I wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope you all have a fantastic time today with your families and get to eat lots of delicious cake.




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