Barefoot in London

Category: Baking

Holidays are coming; Christmas Cake!






Monty the penguin, Red Cups, Coca-cola trucks, Selfridge’s sparkly window displays and Oxford Street festooned in strings of Christmas lights already. Christmas is well and truly galloping towards us at a horrendous pace.

I love this time of year; I may whinge about the dark mornings and the fact it looks as though it’s about midnight when I leave my office but I adore the frosty nip in the air and the fact I get to pile on jumpers and hats and scarves like a lunatic really does make me incredibly happy.

I know a lot of people bawk at getting too Christmassy too early, however, if you haven’t already taken care of it there is one thing that – even if you’re not allowed to put on Love Actually until December – you can definitely do. In fact it’s imperative you do…

You have to make your Christmas cake!

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of eating said cake but I do love making it. I love the smells that fill the house, I love the big fat, brandy-soaked cranberries and raisins and I love feeding it up with regular doses of alcohol until Christmas eve when it’s wrapped up in apricot jam and marzipan and slathered with icing.

Now, I have a confession to make; I made mine a few weeks back because I’m super keen but I think if you get cracking this weekend you’ll definitely have more than enough time to create a decadently spiced and boozy cake.


1kg mixed dried fruit (I used 500g currants, 200g cranberries, 100g apricots, 100g mixed peel and 100g chopped glacé cherries)

200ml brandy

225g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

Rind and juice of 1 orange

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

225g dark brown sugar

4 large eggs

225g butter

2 tbsp treacle

  1. Pre-soak your fruit in 100ml of brandy the night before you’re going to bake this; it makes it all plump and shiny and extra tasty.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 140.

  3. Sift flour, spices and salt into a large bowl.

  4. Pop your treacle, butter and sugar into a bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until all melted together. Beat your eggs and stir into the treacle, butter and sugar.

  5. Pour all your liquidy ingredients in with the flour and spices and combine. Then stir in your fruit, the remaining brandy, orange and lemon juice and rind.

  6. Pour into a deep, round 8” pan lined with grease proof paper. You want the paper really nice and high out of the pan so that you’re able to create a sort of parcel, leaving only a little hole in it when you’re baking.

  7. You’re going to slowly bake for 4 hours. Allow to cool and wrap tightly in greaseproof paper and cling film, unwrapping every 1-2 weeks to feed it up with a tbsp of brandy.


Grown-up Ginger Cake



I’m getting right into this colder weather malarky and, once again, the ginger, cinnamon and cloves in my cupboard are getting a thorough work-out. One of my favourite Wintery treats – albeit it is far more Christmassy than October should allow – is ginger bread. And I mean like proper ginger cake not just normal gingerbread cookies (although between me, you and the gatepost there is a recipe for that coming up…).

This recipe belongs to that of my culinary goddess – Nigella Lawson. It’s incredibly rich, sticky and – according to my co-workers – even appeals to those who don’t particularly like gingery flavours. It’s a deep, earthy and spicy little treat that makes your fingers sticky and which, as it’s cooking, fills the house with the most beautiful, festive sent. And, the fantastic thing about this cake, is it keeps for up to two weeks in an airtight container which is excellent news because – 1. cake for longer and 2. this recipe makes a heck of a lot of cake!

How are you combating these cold, dark evenings?


150 g butter

200g golden syrup

200g black treacle

125g muscavado sugar

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 x 15ml warm water

250ml full fat milk

2 eggs, beaten

300g plain flour

  1. Preheat your oven to 170.

  2. Pop your butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, gingers, cinnamon and cloves into a saucepan over a low heat and until everything has melted and is nicely combined.

  3. Take your saucepan off the heat and stir in your eggs, milk and bicarb.

  4. Sift your flour into a bowl and pour in your liquidy mix. This is an incredibly “wet” mixture but don’t fret – that’s what makes this bake so scrumptious and sticky.

  5. Pour into a large tin, lined with greaseproof paper and bake for 45-60 mins until it is risen and firm on top.

  6. Leave aside to cool and continue baking once out of the oven and enjoy!

Perfect with tea or coffee or warmed up with a little custard or ice cream!

“Honey, I’m comb!” …sticky and sweet honeycomb


Okay, so in theory this is a super easy recipe. In theory. I, however, had a wee bit of teething problems when I first tried this out but…live and learn and all that jazz…

Honeycomb, or Hokey Pokey as it’s sometimes affectionately called, always reminds me of my Grandad on my dad’s side. I’m not entirely sure why – or if they were even a favourite of his – but I seem to associate Crunchie bars with him. I remember him giving them to me when I was wee and I couldn’t really ever quite finish one; my fingers would be sticky with melting chocolate as I sat beside him in the car all trussed up in my baby seat. It’s strange and it’s not any more of a formed memory than that but…it’s there and I like having those little ephemeral flickers of my past. When you don’t really know what you were doing, or the circumstances you were in or even if your thoughts are entirely reliable as these things often become misty with nostalgia and age.

I find food, like certain scents or songs, can often have this effect; it’s connected to places or people or moments in your own history and can in a split second take you back to that time.

As I said, this is a very simple recipe and is actually an awful lot of fun to make; might be good fun to show kiddies too but probably not the wisest of moves to allow them too close – melting sugar and the reaction when you stir in the bicarb can be a little bit troublesome for little ones and we don’t want scalded hands.


200g caster sugar

5 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate ofsoda

Butter for greasing

  1. Grease 20” tin well with butter and pop sugar and golden syrup in a deep saucepan.

  2. Now, this is where I hit a little trouble – you’ll want your pan to have quite a thick bottom as you don’t want the mixture to start bubbling until the sugar has all melted and become caramel. I did not, like a wally, use a proper pan and the entire thing bubbled away for too long, making my honeycomb taste burnt. I was right grouchy about this.

  3. Let the caramel bubble until it’s a deep amber, then take off the heat and stir in the bicarb. This is where the fun starts – it’ll bubble and balloon and seemingly come to life. Stir furiously for a couple of minutes and pour into your greased tin.

  4. Place to one side for one or two hours until it has cooled and then bash it up and enjoy!

“Hey, it’s Autumn!” Ginger and Cinnamon Rolls with Espresso Glaze

DSC_2054 DSC_2058 DSC_2059 DSC_2061 DSC_2064 DSC_2066 DSC_2068 DSC_2069

After the absolute deluge of rain this morning, the darkening evenings and return of woolly socks and central heating I cannot deny that Autumn has well and truly arrived with bells and whistles on. I’m finding it so much harder to drag myself out of bed and want to wear nothing but chunky knits and layers. Don’t get me wrong, I love when it’s time to pull out the snood, don a good hat and pull on the fingerless gloves (how else can I text or obsessively hunt through my playlists for the perfect walk to work songs?) but I think the long, clinging Summer has spoilt me this year.

Now, Autumn for me doesn’t only conjure imagery of crinkly leaves and pumpkins (despite the fact I do love a good pumpkin recipe) for me it also means a wealth of orange, apple, cinnamon and ginger and cloves. It means soup and spices and tasty warm breads. And, most exciting of all, it means lattes. And black coffee. And the occasional hot chocolate. Summer puts me right off hot drinks, I don’t understand how it can be the hottest of hot days and people are still drowning in vats of tea. I want juices, iced coffee and Prosecco (well. I’m partial to cold weather Prosecco too…). However. Autumn arrives and I can’t get enough of cinnamon lattes, Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice and good, rich black coffee.

With this is mind, I devised the perfect Autumn treat. It’s sticky and spicy and is altogether a more adult version of the cinnamon swirl.



350g plain flour

5g yeast

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

120 ml water

60ml milk

40g unsalted butter

1 large egg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger


50g granulated sugar

40g butter

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger


3 tsp coffee

300g icing sugar

4 tbsp milk

  1. Take 300g of flour and mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Pop the milk, water and butter together in a jug and pop in the microwave. Heat until the butter is just melted. You don’t want this horribly hot, just nice and tepid.
  3. Pour into the dry ingredients, add the egg and thrown in the last 50g of flour.
  4. Combine all ingredients, then flour a surface fairly well and tip the sticky dough out of the bowl.
  5. Begin to knead. You want to really roll your sleeves up and get stuck in for a good 4-5 minutes then pop aside in a warmish room to prove for 20 minutes.
  6. Roll out the dough into a rectangle.
  7. Spread on butter for the filling and sprinkle evening with cinnamon, ginger and sugar.
  8. Roll up the dough like a giant swiss roll then take a sharp knife and cut into slices.
  9. Place this into a nice big round tray (or two trays, if necessary!) and leave to prove again for another 60 minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 180 and pop the rolls in the oven for 25-30 minutes until they’re a nice golden brown.
  11. When they have cooled a little – but not too much – make up your glaze.
  12. Glaze; add a tsp of water to the 3 tsp of coffee so that you have a nice thick paste then add to the icing sugar and begin to stir in your milk. You can make this as runny or thick as you like, really. It’s your call.
  13. Drench your rolls in glaze and enjoy!

Bonkers for the Bake Off

Bake off


I barely watch anything on the TV in “real time”. I watch a lot of Netflix and I’m partial to films but…TV is another matter. I may watch things on catch-up and I may record them for another day but very rarely is something so good, so important and so necessary for me to watch as it actually first airs on the TV. But then…Bake Off season starts and I go as excitable as a fanatical football during their team’s penalty shoot out.

I can barely watch as upside down cakes are slid out of tins, macarons are attempted and I genuinely find nothing more stressful than seeing a contestant making a fatale flaw during the technical challenges.

I love the quirky bunch of characters put together; the people you see and wouldn’t necessarily think BAKER. I love watching people flourish and get teary-eyed about becoming Star Baker or a particularly unsuccessful batch of crackers. I love Mel and Sue, Mary and Paul more than I know what to do with and find myself wishing we had our own Bake Off version of the Xtra Factor (you know, that show after the X Factor).

Another excellent part of this show is learning to love the contestants and picking your favourites (I was genuinely heart-broken when Beca and Glen left last year!). This season I’m kind of in love with;

Martha; she’s so young and fresh-faced – she totally had such the potential to be a precocious madam but I actually find myself loving watching her bakes and seeing how experimental she is.

Iain; he’s beardy, Irish AND a baker. I simply wasn’t going to not love him.

Luis; it feels like it’s taken until this week – bread week – for him to really shine but that man knows his stuff. He seems very on-point about his technical stuff and his flavourings.

Richard; that pencil. The man is a builder and a master baker. He just seems so darn lovely.

Nancy; she’s excellent and clearly naturally a really strong baker who knows her stuff but isn’t a cocky devil about it.

The others are all really lovely too and I can’t wait to see how this batch of bakers fair.

Now, I have been meaning to write this wee ode to my favourite reality show for a while (and I could probably go on and on for a good few more paragraphs) but the point of this is I’ve decided I’m going to attempt to bake what they bake each week so tomorrow night it’ll be bread ahoy in my kitchen. And hopefully I’m more of a Luis and less of a Jordan (…if you’re a watcher, you’ll totally get what I mean…).

Do you watch the Bake Off? Who’s your favourite?

Cheeky Wee Coconut Macaroons






Would you believe I’d never even tried a coconut macaroon until a couple of months ago? My lovely cousin brought some for me to taste and from that moment on, I’ve been pretty hooked. I think it’s the texture; the gooey, mushy mouthful of sugary coconutty goodness cannot be beaten.

I think I’m having a bit of a love affair with coconut as of late. A fruit that barely – hang on, is it a fruit? Or, as its name so openly suggests…a nut? – made a blip on my radar until recently has suddenly taken over my kitchen life. My mama even called to tell me she had picked up some desiccated coconut so that when I go back to visit, in a couple of weeks time, I can make yet more of these cakes. Addicts, the lot of us.

This was my first attempt at trying out this recipe and I have to admit, I’m a wee bit proud. I seemed to get them down straight away and family and co-workers have confirmed there tastiness.

PS. These are also great for folks who don’t do flour because, well…if I’m honest, there’s none in them. Makes sense, hey!



600g desiccated coconut

600g caster sugar

3 egg whites

75g ground almonds

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate

This makes about 12 good-sized macaroons.

  1. Preheat oven to 140.
  2. Whisk egg whites until they’re nice, firm peaks.
  3. Stir coconut, sugar, vanilla and almonds into the egg whites until it’s all lovely and combined. It should be sticky and almost dough like.
  4. Get your hands in there – you don’t have to but why miss an opportunity to?! – and take chunks, roll together so it’s nice and tightly combined, then pop on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. You don’t have to do balls like I did, you could make them any shape you darn well like, I shan’t judge! 😉
  5. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they have a slight golden, toasted edge.
  6. Once your macaroons are cooled, melt your chocolate; I tend to melt three quarters of the chocolate, take it off the heat then stir in the final quarter. This helps to bring down the temperature of the chocolate, leaving it shiny and glossy – a cheat’s way of tempering chocolate!
  7. Dip the base of the macaroons into the chocolate, allow to cool and enjoy!

Hear, hear, Julia Childs.

Now, as with most things I stumble across on the internet, I’m going to take this with – excuse the pun – a pinch of salt. I don’t know if she actually said this, but it certainly seems like something she would say from what I’ve read of her, and it reminded me so much of my own thoughts on plates of food that look far too fancy for their own good that I had to share.


“It’s [Food] so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

– Julia Childs

I cannot stand the thought of food being touched too much. Of it going through ten thousand processes before it finds it’s self on my plate. I like things to look a little rustic, a little down home, a little less than perfect. I like my cooking wholesome and from scratch. Jamie Oliver’s bish bash bosh approach is more my style than Heston’s scientifically-crafted art. And whilst I have a respect for the other, I can’t seem to quite embrace it. Restaurants that serve it make me feel alittle uncomfortable, a little out of place and, Kitchen Gods preserve me if I ever attempt it!

What about you? Are you a fan of fancy dining?

julia childs

Raspberry and White Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich





I don’t know about you guys but, for me, sometimes recipes are just kind of guidelines. Especially when it comes to flavour combinations. Obviously baking requires a little precision, a little science, but I think you should definitely take a wee bit of artistic license once in a while. Recipes are what I tend to use for inspiration, rather than instruction; I browse through blogs and books and wait for a little light bulb to ping above my head. I take a little of this, a little of that and throw in my own tastes – et voilà! Dinner/dessert/lunch/unnecessary but tasty indulgence is served.

With regards to this particular recipe – because I’m not the biggest fan of overtly sweet foods – I’d probably use a really nice dark chocolate next time instead of the white. Whilst I love white chocolate and raspberry together, I think the tartness and sweetness of the raspberry/lemon filling requires the bitterness of dark chocolate. But, you know, guidelines. Personal preference. All that jazz. Smother this wee treat in any kind of chocolate you prefer.


4 egg yolks

400g sugar

300g plain flour

300g self raising flour

1 tsp salt

450g butter

300g raspberries

3 tbsp sugar

Juice and rind of a lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 180.

  2. Pop your raspberries, sugar and lemon juice/rind in a saucepan over a low heat. Just let the raspberries fall apart and turn syrupy, then take off the heat and pop to one side to cool.

  3. Shortbread; cream the butter until it’s soft and fluffy then stir in the egg yolks.

  4. Stir in the flours, sugar and salt to the egg and butter mixture. Get your hands in there and knead for a little – don’t overwork the dough though.

  5. Take half the dough and flatten it into a tray then slather on the raspberry mixture.

  6. With the other half of the dough create an almost breadcrumb-like consistency and sprinkle on top of the raspberry.

  7. Pop in the oven for thirty minutes until it’s nice and golden then leave to cool.

  8. Melt your chocolate, drizzle on top of your shortbread and enjoy!


Rough Puff Pastry



Because, well, normal puff pastry? To quote that famous internet meme – ain’t nobody got time for that. Well I’m sure some of you do and, furthermore, I’m sure it’s flipping tasty but I struggle to spend time with pastry. Yes, the hard work is rewarding and, yes, it generally is incredibally tasty when you’ve slaved over it for an afternoon or so but…I’ll take a short cut where I can – and it’s not too often you’ll hear me say that in the kitchen!

This makes a gloriously crisp, flaky and buttery pastry that can be used for a multitude of things and can be whipped up in an hour or so if you’re really pushed for time. So. You know. No excuses!


500g plain flour

1 tsp salt

500g unsalted butter

250ml cold water

Tip; maybe keep your water in the fridge if you know you’re going to be making this. Really, really cold water works a treat.

  1. Allow your butter to come to room temperature – not super warm and squishy but malleable – and pop in a bowl with the flour and salt. Rub all ingredients together until it resembles chunky breadcrumbs.

  2. Slowly add the water and mix together with your hands until it’s all combined. You don’t really have to knead at this stage – seeing flecks of butter is totally normal. Good, in fact. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for twenty minutes.

  3. Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll out into a rectangle. Fold a third of the pastry into the middle and then fold the remaining third over the top of that. Roll the whole lot out into a rectangle again and fold once more. Pop in the fridge again for 10/20 minutes and repeat the folding and rolling process again. Try as hard as you can not to over-work the pastry.

  4. Let the pastry rest in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

  5. Use an egg wash (one beaten egg, mixed with two tablespoons of water) to glaze the pastry before popping into a preheated oven (190) for thirty minutes and enjoy!


Cracking Coconut Cake



Coconut cake. Who knew it was so popular? I made a batch last week and they seemed to disappear in record time. I wasn’t even aware I was a coconut fan, if I’m honest; it’s a fruit I tend to just not think much about. But yes, my spongy wee cakes topped with glorious lashings of bright white, coconut cream cheese frosting went down a bloody treat.

Now, I start my new job tomorrow down in that there big city of London so am currently back at my Dad’s for a couple of months, however, before I left my mama did have one final request…more coconut cakes. So, after waiting until the very last moment to pack (because I’m literally averse to packing for anything in good time), I knocked out another heap of cakes.

This would be lovely as a loaf, or occasion cake, but I made cupcakes because, well, that’s my prerogative!


175g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs (beaten)

3 tbsp coconut milk

50g desiccated coconut

  1. Preheat oven to 180.

  2. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.

  3. Gradually add both your flour and baking powder and beaten eggs to the butter and sugar.

  4. Mix in the desiccated coconut and milk until everything is combined. It’ll be a little lumpy because of the coconut, don’t fret.

  5. Pop the batter into your baking tins, turn the oven down to 170 and cook for 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

For 12 cupcakes.

200g cream cheese

50g butter

300g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp desiccated coconut

  1. Beat together the cream cheese and butter until combined.

  2. Stir in your icing, vanilla and coconut.

  3. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least 20 minutes before using.

I tend to make this frosting just after I’ve popped the cakes in the oven, that gives me a good 30-40 minutes (with cooling time) for it to firm up nicely.



%d bloggers like this: