Saturday, 24 September 2016

A Grand Day Out

When my friend Jude suggested meeting in London to see an exhibition on Friday evening, it's so long since I've had a day in the city, it seemed a good opportunity to make a whole day of it.

First stop was somewhere that has been on my sixty by sixty list for a while and that was to visit the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch St... Also known as the "Walkie Talkie" building.

I couldn't have picked a better day weather wise as the views from the top were spectacular.

Inside was pretty amazing too... it really was a garden in the sky, a bit like a huge greenhouse! And what is even more amazing is that it is totally free to go up to the top and there is no one trying to sell merchandise like mini walkie talkie snow domes, pens, jigsaws etc either... not to mention the obligatory photographs of one enjoying the "experience"! You just need to book a time slot in advance and go up and enjoy the views.

It's  highly unlikely I would have bought any official photos had they been on offer but I did want one of me at the top to put in my sixty by sixty scrapbook... so I had numerous attempts at a selfie. Why can young people make taking a selfie seem so effortless? I took dozens of photos of myself looking highly self conscious pulling numerous silly faces. This was the best of the bunch... oh, the concentration on my face!

And then I did something I'd never done before and treated myself to a glass of bubbly, which I sat and enjoyed all on my own whilst people watching and admiring the view. Maybe I should clarify... definitely not the first time I've had a glass of bubbly, but the first time I've bought one on my own!

Next stop was Borough Market just over London Bridge, which was absolutely buzzing with activity. 

Every type of street food imaginable was on offer but I selected my lunch based on what I was least likely to dribble down my front. I just wasn't sure I could manage boxes of noodles or vegetables in curry sauces! My cheese and spinach filled Bourak (a Balkan pastry) was delicious.

After a relaxing half hour resting in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral in an attempt to give my legs a break (not literally... one broken leg this year is quite enough) I walked along to the Fashion and Textile museum to see The Jazz Age... an exhibition of dresses and photographs from the 1920s.

It wasn't as interesting as some of the previous exhibitions I've seen at this museum but there were some lovely dresses to look at.

Jude and I having met up at this point, made our way to Tate Modern and sat outside enjoying the late summer sunshine until it was our time slot to see the exhibition we'd met to see... Georgia O'Keefe. I've long admired her flower paintings but found the exhibition a little disappointing. Only one of the thirteen rooms was devoted to her flowers and although there were many other interesting exhibits I guess it wasn't what I hoped I would see.

But we finished the evening with a lovely meal before walking back along the river to London Bridge to get our respective trains home.

And all in all it was a very grand day out indeed.
And today I've had another grand day out in a different city but you'll have to pop back later in the week to read about that... after a quick cake post or two that is!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Farmer's Daughter

I wasn't going to join in with this month's Cake Slice Bakers. Not only do we seem to have had rather a lot of cake at home lately, I couldn't get excited about the choices, as usual taken from Maida Heatter's Cakes. There was one flourless chocolate cake, named The Queen Mother's cake which was virtually identical to my go to gluten free chocolate cake... So not much of a challenge. And the other three cakes were all very plain and a couple of them seemed to use so many eggs.... Separated eggs no less, that I really couldn't be bothered. But after seeing what a couple of people had made and a little bit of banter on Facebook, I decided to stop being so churlish and opted to make The Farmers's Daughter's Cake which is made with cream rather than butter... obviously the Dairy Farmer's Daughter's Cake!

It was exceptionally easy and quick to put together... just a single layer baked in a square pan.

Maida tops hers with an "Old fashioned Chocolate icing"... I'm not sure what makes it old fashioned but it involved egg yolks and beating for 15 minutes. Needless to say I didn't do that! In fact the night before, due to some other Facebook banter I made churros (inspired by the Great British Bake Off last week) for friends who popped in for supper... I shall digress to tell you they were exceptional good and well worth the effort... but I also made some chocolate dipping sauce. ( 150g plain chocolate, 100ml double cream, 50 ml milk and a dollop of golden syrup) As there was lots left over and it had set solid in the fridge I decided to use this to top the cake.... but I thought you might want to see my churros first!

The chocolate sauce made an excellent topping with the addition of some icing sugar and butter (small amounts of each... I was making it up as I went along)

The sprinkles were optional!

And the cake... not bad! Light and tasty although mine was a little dry. Not the best cake I've ever made but considering how little effort it took probably worth having in your repetoire for when you want to turn out something quick, easy but tasty too!

So should you wish to try this yourself  here is my version of the recipe:
The Farmer's Daughter Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
You will need a 8" (20 cm) square pan. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (160 fan), 350 deg F
  • 280g sifted plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • quarter teaspoon almond extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 250 ml double cream
  • Sift the flour baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla and almond extracts until pale and creamy. Beat in the cream and then fold in the flour and mix gently until smooth..
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 - 40 mins. Mine was done after 30 mins and I think it would have been better if it had only had 25, so keep an eye on it!
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a rack to cool
  • Top with a  chocolate frosting of your choice! 

Linking up a little late...


Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Weekend Away!

I've spent the weekend in the depths of Suffolk teaching at an Embroiderers' Guild (late) summer school... Not that it felt much like summer driving up in torrential rain on Friday afternoon. Despite the appalling conditions I arrived at Belsey Bridge unscathed, where I was teaching a course on machine embroidered landscapes.

I had thirteen lovely students... They got on well, shared their materials, laughed and chatted and generally supported each other.

They started with a source of inspiration such as a magazine photo or in some cases a picture they had taken themselves. This was then interpreted with strips of torn coloured paper before turning them into amazing mahine embroidered landscapes. The one above was inspired by a Tanzanian landscape...

 And this one was based on a David Hockney painting.. but see for yourself... thirteen stunning embroideries that don't need me to say anything.

And while they all worked hard on their landscapes I put together one of my own...

It certainly made a change from baking cake!

Thursday, 15 September 2016


I always knew that taking part in the Great Bloggers Bake Off this week was going to be a challenge. With the programme not airing until Wednesday evening, Thursday being my Farm shop baking day with the additional pressure of forty cupcakes to make for a wedding, and then having to leave for a weekend away teaching embroidery on Friday there was a good chance I wasn't going to do it before the weekend if at all. But as many of you already know I am just a little bit bonkers!

I wasn't overly inspired by "Batter Week". The bakers had to make filled Yorkshire puddings for their signature bake, lacy pancakes for the technical challenge and churros for the showstopper. I know I'm probably on my own here but I'm not that keen on Yorkshire puddings. I can make them... and did so on a weekly basis when all the boys were still at home... but I can take them or leave them. I quite liked the idea of making churros and will probably give them a try when I've got more time as that is something I've never tried before. So that left the technical challenge... pancakes. As far as I can see, frying pancakes has very little to do with baking... and is not that much of a challenge either... except these ones were lacy! So I decided to make them for dessert this evening.

I only made half the mixture as with only two of us here I thought twelve pancakes might be a few too many, especially when we don't usually eat dessert. To be fair getting that lacy pattern was trickier than it looked... my first attempt wasn't terribly elegant! But it got easier as I went along. By the last one I'd got the hang of it.

Should you want to try them yourself my pancake mixture was 90g plain flour whisked up with one medium egg, 130ml milk, a dessert spoon of caster sugar and a teaspoon of melted butter. You need a non stick pan smeared with butter and your mixture in a squeezy bottle. Get the pan reasonably hot, squeeze out your design... cook for about a minute until set and flip over to brown the other side... that's all there was to it. If you really want my opinion (and you probably don't) I wouldn't bother with the squeezy bottle and just put spoonfuls of the mixture in the pan to make normal pancakes because I can't see the point of all the lacy nonsense! But what do I know?

I guess they did look pretty and they tasted good with a sprinkle of sugar and ice cream... although bang goes the diet for this week!

Joining in with Jenny of Mummy Mishaps for the Great Bloggers Bake Off.

Mummy Mishaps

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Clandestine Cake Club

I've known about the Clandestine Cake Club for quite some time and have thought about joining but never quite summoned up the courage. It was started about six years ago by Lynn Hill in her home in Leeds but has grown in popularity and there are now groups all over the UK and even further afield. The idea is simple...  members meet in a secret location and all bring cake, eat cake and talk about cake. As I'm aiming to do sixty new things by the time I'm sixty I decided to bite the bullet and join my local group in Cambridge. As Cambridge has a new organiser the theme of Monday night's meeting was "All Things New"

I've been wanting to try an elegant Chiffon layer cake like this one by Jin Yee Chung in The Cambridgeshire Cook Book for quite a while so it seemed an ideal opportunity to give it a try. The unusual green colour comes from an Eastern flavouring called Pandan... an extract derived from Pandan leaves

I was slightly alarmed at just how bright green my  cake mixture turned out...

Less elegant... more neon! The cake is three layers of very light sponge layered with a Pandan and coconut flavoured custard.

With some trepidation I took my cake into Cambridge on Monday evening to Novi, our secret location. Despite giving off an air of confidence I find new situations like this a bit nerve wracking but I need not have worried. Every one was really friendly and when I got inside I even found there was someone I knew which was lovely (Hello Terry!)

The table was laden with the most amazing looking cakes and I was a bit concerned that not only did my cake look rather unusual but might taste a bit different too... Pandan tastes a bit nutty like coconut but has a flavour that resembles basmati rice! Being "new" to me I didn't really know what it was going to be like!

But I was relieved that others really seemed to like it...

The first cake I tried was this wonderful chocolate daquoise, that was so good I didn't want to eat anything else... but I did! I tried four or five of the cakes before I reached my limit. We laughed and talked... mostly about cake... and the two hours whizzed by. About thirty women of all different ages joined by a love of cake!

And what's more... we got to take the leftovers home!

I'm already looking forward to the next meeting!
And that's another sixty by sixty crossed off my list... only fifty five left to go!

I'd like to tell you there will be something other than cake in the next couple of posts but with another bake off challenge coming up and a Cake Slice Bakers deadline next week, there's going to be more cake I'm afraid... although I'm also back teaching embroidery this week too. It's one of those weeks!