Archive | Baking

Dreamy chocolate brownies from a bearded brownie baker

Opulently decadent chocolate brownie and bountiful bouquet gift packages are coming…

I love it when a plan comes together and yesterday, when Gilliflower met with Alex’s Brownies, there was no stemming the creative flow. Alex, the bearded baker, is a Colchester based local lad and artisan brownie maker who crafts luxuriously rich brownies for an increasing band of devout customers. Alex is a chocolate visionary. His unwavering passion for all things brownie has led him to create fantastical bespoke bakes with the most ingenious flavour combinations. But best of all, Alex takes requests. And no request, no matter how wildly decadent or ludicrously lavish, is too far. Peanut butter and white chocolate chunks? You betcha’. Mini Eggs and Toblerone? Of course! Twix and Double Stuffed Oreo? No problem. I’m too hungry now to continue listing the boundless possibilities but just think of them all…

As you all know, I’m a lifelong fan of partnering flowers with cake. I go on about it every month. That’s why I’m ecstatic to announce a cracking new collaboration between Gilliflower and Alex’s Brownies. Working together to produce deluxe brownie and bloom gift ideas, and gorgeous wedding flower and favour packages, our exciting collaboration will be officially launched in the next couple of months. Watch this space.

Alex's brownies white chocolate brownieMothering Sunday aquapack bouquet


I’d have baked a cake : sweet peas and white chocolate and raspberry blondies

The sweetest of little peas with the sweetest of little tray bakes.

Frilly, frivolous and flighty, sweet peas are all the fun of the summer fair in a vase. These charming, lacy blooms make a wonderful arrangement or bouquet all on their own; they have a stage presence which requires absolutely no accompaniment or dressing up. Sweet peas are a splendid selection for early to mid summer weddings and their perfumy and playful aroma will fill your venue with joyful tones. To top it off, sweet peas are dead easy to grow and many varieties can be trained to scramble up cane wigwams and trellis’ adding height and splashes of watercolour to even the smallest of gardens.

Sweet peas therefore deserve a sweet cake and you don’t get much sweeter then these white chocolate and raspberry blondies. Blondies are the fair headed cousins of brownies who, unlike brownies, do not contain cocoa powder. However, like brownies, blondies are best ever so slightly under baked enabling their centres to stay soft and gooey. The raspberries in this recipe are like little red rubies balancing the sweet white chocolate with summery, fruity flavours.

I found this recipe online at Good to Know and just made a couple of technical tweaks. Because this (mega easy) recipe uses fresh raspberries, I recommend baking the blondies on the same day that you intend to eat them otherwise, after a little while, the fruit makes them too moist.

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  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g fresh raspberries
  • 75g white chocolate for decoration (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180c/350F/Gas 4. Line a 18 x 28cm (7 x 11”) tin with baking paper.
  2. Break the chocolate into a bowl and melt over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Whilst the chocolate is melting, add the butter to another saucepan and heat gently, being careful not to burn it, until melted.
  3. Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar together using an electric mix for 5 or so minutes until thick. The mixture should leave a brief trail when the whisk is lifted up.
  4. Gently mix the melted butter and white chocolate into the sugar and egg mix. Finally, sieve and fold in the flour and baking powder.
  5. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin. Drop the raspberries onto the batter. The raspberries will sink into the mixture whilst it’s baking so no need to press them down.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. Leave the blondies to cool in the baking tray and then lift them out using the baking paper.
  7. To decorate, melt the remaining white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Drizzle the melted chocolate onto the blondies and then slice into generous squares.
  8. Reserve some white chocolate for the very end so that you can literally eat it straight out of the bowl using a large spoon (optional).

I’d have baked a cake : ranunculus and hot cross buns

One a penny, two a penny: spicy, sweet hot cross buns and luxuriously lavish ranunculi.

If I had to pick a single flower that inspired me to get myself down to a local floristry college and get learning the art of flowersmithing, it would be ranunculus. Hands down. These blooms never cease to appeal to my creative urges and I cannot pass a flower seller empty handed who has these beauties in their window. Brimful of generously packed petals, I struggle to let a spring wedding go by without the welcome presence of  luxurious ranunculi in a bridesmaid’s bouquet or five. Ranunculi aren’t the cheapest flowers and it’s rare to see a bunch in a supermarket, but they are a real treat and an absolute delight so why not spoil yourself a little this week and buy a frush bunch to adorn your Easter table.

I’ve said it before, but hot cross buns are a real addiction of mine. Genuinely, the one good thing I find about Christmas being over every year is that freshly baked hot cross buns will be back on supermarket shelves pronto. I probably purchase my first batch of buns on 27th December and then it’s a slippery slope down to hot cross debauchery. I’ve made my own a couple of times, but bread isn’t my baking forte which has resulted in some lacklustre buns in the past. Finally though, I’ve found a recipe that really works for me. And these buns totally knock the socks off of their supermarket counterparts.

This recipe has been adapted from Essex granny’s favourite, Jamie Oliver. I found that the finished buns could be a little sweeter so I have increased the amount of sugar slightly here.

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  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 2 x 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 455g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 pieces of crystalised stem ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 large free range egg, beaten
  • 8 tbsp plain flour
  • 85g sultanas, raisons or any other combination of dried fruit of your choice
  • 2 tbsp mixed peel
  • Runny honey or apricot jam to glaze


  1. Add the milk and 50ml of water to a small pan and place over a low heat for a couple of minutes, until slightly warm to the touch. Do not overheat – you should be able to keep your little finger in the milk without scalding it.
  2. Meanwhile, add the butter to a separate pan and place over a low heat for a minute or so until it has completely melted. Put the melted butter to one side.
  3. Place the warmed milk into a bowl and stir in the two sachets of yeast. Set aside.
  4. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, cinnamon, ground spice, grated nutmeg, stem ginger, and caster sugar. Stir together.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter, followed by the milk and yeast mixture, and finally the egg.
  6. Using a fork, mix the ingredients together until you have a rough, wet dough. Turn the dough out onto a flour dusted work surface and knead for around 10 minutes until soft and springy. You’ll find that the sticky, wet dough will suddenly change consistency to become smooth and will bounce back to the touch. This is when it is done.
  7. Return the dough to a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until the dough has doubled in size. In my cold, Edwardian house this usually takes 1.5 hours in front of a warm radiator.
  8. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and knock the air out by bashing it with your fist. Place the dried fruit on top of the dough and knead for 1-2 minutes until the fruit has been evenly distributed.
  9. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Space the dough balls onto a greased and lined baking sheet and cover again with a damp tea towel in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Again, in my cold, old house this takes around 45 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oven to 190c/375F/Gas 5.
  11. Place the plain flour into a bowl and add around 8 tbsp of water. Mix until you have a thick batter which can be piped. You might need to add a little more flour or a little more water to get the right consistency.
  12. Once the dough balls have doubled in size, pipe over the batter carefully tracing a shape of the cross.
  13. Place the buns in the over for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  14. Brush the buns with the honey or apricot jam to glaze and then transfer onto a cooling rack.
  15. Scoff the whole batch over the Easter weekend. It’s possible.

I’d have baked a cake : daffodils and Welsh cakes

hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi!

Or, Happy St David’s Day! Pairing daffodils (cennin Pedr) and Welsh cakes (picau ar y maen) for this month’s ‘I’d have baked a cake’ feature is a little cliched I know, but it’s March 1st and I loves them both, I do.

Daffodils and narcissi are a staple of the Florists springtime repertoire and this year, they’ve received some unexpected media attention. Public Health England have urged supermarkets to keep the brassy, little sunshine flowers away from the fruit and vegetable aisle in case customers confuse them for food. But any press is good press, right? Just remember kids, put your daffodils in a vase and your spring onions in a Thai green curry.

I went a long time in my life before eating a Welsh cake, trying one for the first time when a Welsh colleague of mine brought a fresh batch into work one March 1st, and I regret all those years I was bereft of their buttery goodness. Living in England I rarely see these modest, fruity griddle cakes in shops so to satisfy my cravings, I bake them for myself. Traditionally cooked on cast iron griddles called bakestones, Welsh cakes are sometimes given the same name. I don’t have a bakestone and find that a thick bottomed frying pan works just as well.

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I based my recipe on the Great British Chefs Welsh cakes, but added vanilla extract. My dear old Grandad used to be a baker – he was the fastest doughnut maker in the East of England – and he swore by adding vanilla extract into any cake recipe. This recipe makes around 13 cakes.


  • 225g self raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g (unsalted) butter
  • 50g  golden caster sugar
  • 50g currants
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A little butter for cooking
  • A little golden caster sugar to serve


  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and currants and mix them all together.
  2. Pour the milk and vanilla extract into the beaten egg and stir well.
  3. Add the milk and egg into the flour, sugar and currents and mix until you get a stiff dough.
  4. Roll out the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface until it is about 5mm thick. Stamp out the individual cakes using a round pastry cutter.
  5. Heat the frying pan over a low – medium heat until it has warmed through thoroughly. Grease the pan using a small amount of butter and add the Welsh cakes.
  6. Cook the cakes for around 4 – 5 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and have risen a little.
  7. Place your daffodils into a tasteful vase. Daffodils last longer in shallow water so don’t overfill your vase and top up the water as and when necessary.
  8. Sprinkle a little golden caster sugar on the finished cakes and serve. Lush.

I’d have baked a cake : Hyacinths and American-style pancakes

Fluffy, American-style pancakes and Spring-is-nearly-here Hyacinths

Nothing says  ‘welcome home’ more than the sublimely scented blend of fresh flowers and a still warm from the oven cake. In this monthly feature, I will be recommending perfect partners in fragrance to make your guests feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I am somewhat of a pancake devotee and a faithful observer of Pancake Day – which is tomorrow! Nevertheless, before now my pancake repertoire has been somewhat basic. This year, I decided to take my hand to American-style, buttermilk pancakes and, truth be told, there’s no looking back for me.

Nipping into the garden to collect some wood for our burner earlier in the week, my heart  surged to see the hyacinths poke their sleepy, somewhat cautious heads out of their flower beds. Spring is certainly thinking about sprunging, and I for one am giddy with anticipation. Inspired by my garden’s seasonal promise, this month I’ve partnered heady hyacinths with thick, eat me quick, buttermilk pancakes.

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I based my recipe on Baking Mad’s buttermilk pancakes, but halved the ingredients because I was only preparing breakfast for me and my husband, Joey. This recipe made 8 pancakes.


  • 65g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Tiny pinch salt
  • 18g golden caster sugar
  • 175ml buttermilk
  • 25g butter (unsalted), melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Maple syrup for drizzling


  1. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Gently stir in the sugar and then make a well in the centre.
  2. In a jug, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry bit by bit to form a thick, smooth batter.
  4. Leave the  batter to rest for 10-15 minutes. Take this opportunity to arrange your hyacinths and plunge the press on your cafetiere.
  5. Lightly grease a frying pan (or skillet if you’re one of those pancake professionals), and leave for a minute or two on a medium heat to warm through.
  6. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of batter into the centre of your frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Once the bubbles have just stopped forming and the edges look set, flip your pancake and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  7. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate and keep warm until you serve. I tried to do this,  but mostly failed and ate my pancakes smothered in maple syrup by the hob.




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