It’s raining, it’s cold, the heating’s on, the winter duvet’s on the bed. Donald Trump might become the most powerful man on the planet in a few days. What better time to hunker down and eat cake. Come on, join me, you know it makes sense!
Don’t worry if you haven’t started your Christmas cake yet – I’m only starting mine this week too. I really don’t like thinking about Christmas until after Bonfire Night but now the countdown is unashamedly on. I’ve been planning quite a few new Christmas bakes this week, which I can’t wait to share – we’ve been drooling just thinking about them. My recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, is packed full of some of my favourite, classic Christmas bakes and is available here. My book makes a really good Christmas present for the baker in your life – each recipe is graded in different levels so there’s something for everyone, from novice to expert. I was recently interviewed by The Washington Post for a great article about the differences between US and UK versions of Christmas cake (see here) and my Christmas cake has been translated into US measurements here. I always make at least four Christmas cakes – one for our family, which I cover in royal icing, and then a number of ones for various charities or school events, which I usually decorate in fondant (as above).
When the weather’s cold, I feel the urge to bake even more. I’ve been developing some recipes for Homepride, and they’ve been kind enough to send me loads of plain flour over the past few months. I only use plain flour for cakes and then add baking powder, rather than using self-raising flour, and my American followers have told me they think this is why my recipes work well for them (which is good to hear). The classic Bakewell tart above is one of the recipes that’s now on the Homepride site (see here), and I’ll post the others over the next few months. As if there was much doubt where I got my baking bug from, I was out at a Bonfire Night party yesterday and when we got in, I opened my fridge to find an oven-ready apple and pear crumble. My mum has picked the apples and pears from my garden earlier in the day, stewed most of them for the freezer and then turned the rest into a pudding for us to enjoy this week. I live opposite my parents and the house I grew up in, and this is definitely one of the advantages. It was also really nice to have someone bake something for me for a change – thanks Mum!
I’ve been back at the building work all week, after some time off with cake commissions for the past few weeks. I really need the balance of my dual-life of Builder/Baker, as it gives me the opportunity to work off some of the cake I’ve been making (and sampling!) So when I came to write tonight’s blog, at first I didn’t think I’d done much baking this week as I’d made a couple of sponge cakes for the past few evenings on autopilot while watching Netflix. My wife’s best friend Helena and her fiancé Will are getting married in five weeks and our oldest two girls will be their bridesmaids so we’re all very excited. They came over today for their wedding cake tasting so I’d made eight different flavoured 6″ sponge cakes, then today I made six different flavoured buttercreams / Italian meringue buttercreams (recipe in my book), chocolate caramel ganache, lemon curd, lime curd, and (to give myself a bit of a break!) got some shop-bought jam. We spent the afternoon sampling loads of different combinations before they decided on the four flavours for their cake. It was so much fun and all afternoon I kept thinking about the words of Val from this year’s Bake Off (below). This is exactly why I bake too – I loved how much fun we had sitting around my kitchen table together eating cake and drinking tea while it rained outside, especially as I’ve also known Helena since she was four years old. A really great afternoon.
I packaged up the leftover cake for Helena and Will to take to work tomorrow but I’ve got loads of buttercream, ganache and curd leftover so I think there’ll be a fair few macarons being made this week too! Those of you with beady eyes might have noticed that most of the buttercreams I made are boozy. I really like baking with flavoured liquors as it always gives me another excuse to add another bottle to our booze shelf (above) when we’re at food festivals. Once upon a time I was a cocktail barman, so I find cocktail recipes give me a lot of inspiration for baking flavour combinations.
Anyway, the kids are now in bed and there’ll be no more baking for me tonight as my sweet tooth is well and truly sated. Until next week, Happy Baking, and enjoy the full length version of one of my favourite songs before you go.