Baking Blog – getting creative with making cakes

We hear that Britain is turning into a nation of bakers as we try to get creative in the kitchen these days. This is a great activity with kids as you can have as much pleasure eating your creations as you can making them!  That is the bit that I like best, as cooking has never come that naturally to me which must be one of the reasons I married an excellent cook.

 I think I must have been put off as a child when local boys grabbed the tray of butterfly cakes I was proudly taking home to my mum. I had spent the afternoon baking at my friend Susie’s house aged 6, and as I walked across the courtyard to our flat, the naughty boys took them from me, tipped them onto the floor and stamped on them.  So I was never able to show my lovely creations to my family. Maybe that is why I have never been enthusiastic to get cooking!

 

Luckily I have overcome that set-back, and now I have 3 favourite tea-time recipes that are so easy even I can make them. These really are foolproof because I get a bit stressed in the kitchen especially with all the timings and different requirements and even though I’m usually quite good at multi-tasking, cooking seems so much more of a challenge. And being a reluctant cook I have very basic equipment to work with. All you need for these recipes is a few basic ingredients: a mixing bowl, saucepan, wooden spoon and a baking tray or cake tin. I have an old-fashioned weighing scale as our modern one broke, but these recipes even work with approximate quantities, as I have found out from my own guestimates. In fact that is part of the fun as each time I make them they taste a little bit different.

These cakes can even double up with a scoop of ice-cream for what I would call a fancy dessert!  So let’s get baking and impress your family, which is how I always feel when I manage to get it together to show off my kitchen creations.

 

Baking for me is an opportunity to get dressed up, if possible with a cute apron colour-coordinated to my outfit, so even if my talent is lacking at least I feel like I’m dressing the part! My hair tied back in a pony-tail and a vintage-inspired apron and I am ready to turn my attention to making cakes.

So put the music on to dance around the kitchen, turn up the oven and let’s start this ‘at-home baking party’!

  

Flapjacks

125g butter

125g soft brown sugar

2 large tablespoons golden syrup

250g rolled oats

Any flavouring that inspires you – raisins,

chopped almonds or walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate chips etc

 

  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan 
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the oats and any

additional flavouring if you feel like adding some 

  • Put the mixture into greased tin pre-lined with a

piece of greaseproof paper 

  • Bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to

180C/350F or gas mark 4

 

  • Mark your shapes with a knife whilst still hot
  • Allow to cool and cut into triangles, squares, rectangles

or whatever shapes that take your fancy!

 

Shortbread

175g softened butter (take it out of

the fridge at least 1 hour before)

2oz caster sugar

225g plain flour

Extra caster sugar to sprinkle on top

Flour to prevent sticking to the kitchen

surface when rolling out

  • Cream the butter and sugar together and stir in the flour. Use your hands to squish the dough together like playdough (but avoid playing with it, as this will make it ‘tough’) and push together into a ball
  • Roll out on a floured surface into a circular shape and place on pre-greased baking tray or onto baking sheets
  • Crimp the edges with a fork (this means making a cute design around the edge) and mark into 6 or 8 sections. Prick all over with a fork
  • Cook in the centre of a pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes in oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 until a light golden colour 
  • Cut into portions immediately after taking the shortbread out of the oven and allow to cool down. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then place onto a cooling rack.

 

Tips: you can offer variety by adding different flavours into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Such as: the zest of an orange; cinnamon, almond flavouring, chocolate chips or anything else that you feel inspired by that you can find in the cupboard!

 

Vanilla Cake

175g softened butter

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour (sifted)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 pinch salt

 

  • Cream the butter and sugar together, add all the other ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth but don’t beat it for too long, just enough to mix it together
  • Grease an 18cm (7 inch) round cake tin with butter and cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit and line the bottom of the tin
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon
  • Place in the oven pre-heated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes. Try not to open the oven door before 40 minutes is up! The cake should look golden brown and well risen, and the top should spring back when you touch it lightly with your fingertip, or you can insert the point of a knife into the middle of the cake and it should come out clean
  • Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then insert a knife around the edge, and turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool
  • You can sprinkle some caster sugar on the top if you want, or add icing or decorations – be as creative as you want! Adding smarties on top looks like colourful polka dots and is a quick and easy decoration

P.S Cooking is not hereditary – my mum is an excellent cook and neither me or my sister have inherited her skills. She tells me that as a teenager when I was babysitting my younger sister I had to make dinner and I served up chick pea soup.

My recipe involved tipping a can of chick peas into a saucepan complete with salt-water juice and serving it warm. I seem to remember I didn’t feel the need to consult a recipe book but my sister wouldn’t eat it and still doesn’t like chick peas!

 We are offering a Limited Edition collection of children’s aprons in five different options.  These are one-size to fit a child aged 3 to 10 years, price £29