Archive | I’d have baked a cake

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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