Here’s a birthday cake for a special person, my husband SB.
The cake recipe is one I’ve used before, from Best of Better Baking.com. It’s called Moist and Mellow Yellow Birthday Cake, which I think is a great name and definitely describes a lovely cake. I have made this before, but not as an actual cake. I’ve made it as large cupcakes. I think it’s a versatile recipe – it would be easy to flavour it with orange or lemon, and I have made a malted chocolate version – you can see my handwritten notes. In fact I have blogged about it here!
The frosting is a swiss meringue buttercream. It’s a bit of a mission to make, but the result is fluffy and rich. Eggs whites are whisked over hot water with sugar and a tiny bit of cream of tartar until they’re fluffy and soft. Then they’re combined with butter beaten until soft.
I flavoured the buttercream with chocolate. I melted a bar of dark chocolate and beat it into the basic mixture. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t add the water ( see above), or maybe I left it to cool for a bit too long, but it didn’t blend in completely, leaving a texture like tiny tiny chocolate chips. The taste was fine so I’m not worrying about that!
Time to decorate, with strawberries and edible violas, and a final sprinkling of gold flakes.
The end result was was a great looking and great tasting cake (if I may say it myself 😉) which went down very well with all ages.
Today was London Marathon Day! Several people I knew were participating either in the actual event, or the so called virtual event. I think that’s a bit of a misnomer – you still have to cover the distance, and you haven’t even got the crowds cheering you on, or the aid stations along the way.
It’s a cliche to say that everyone has their own marathon story, but it is really true. Each of the people I know taking part has a story of their journey to get there, each as inspiring as the others, and all different.
My neighbour Tim is taking part in the virtual event, having been quite unwell for a while, and not having run for a few months! He is an amazing person who has run marathons and half marathons for many years, sometimes flying in the face of sense! He was one of my supporters when I ran London in 2016, cheering me on at a few different sites with a banner complete with my name! A total star, he was there at the end bringing me pints of tea and plates of sandwiches in the cafe. Tim started at 6.30am and is still going as I write this 10 hours later. *edit – Tim finished in just under 12 hours! What an achievement!
Another inspiring person is Isabelle, who has tried to reach the start line 4 times before and has been thwarted by injury, illness or lockdown until this year! Even this year it was touch and go as an old knee injury resurfaced and she was training on a static bike and an elliptical trainer for weeks – only getting out on the pavement again a couple of weeks ago. Isabelle completed the 26.2 miles in under 5 hours!
Gurdeep, my fellow runner in Rome, is also running London today, just a few weeks later. I cannot imagine doing that distance again so soon. At least the weather forecast has been wrong – we all thought it would rain all day, but in fact it has turned out fine. Gurdeep told me that she hates running in the rain, and avoids it at all costs in training runs!
Talking of consecutive races – David ran a personal best in Manchester just 7 days ago. He has today beat even that time (2:51:39) by 7 seconds! I can hardly believe it! (But will he be able to walk tomorrow?😉)
Well done Quit the Gym friends Dale and Lynne too. I know Dale has had a bit of an epic journey to get here too, including a nasty experience at the Ealing Half marathon which nevertheless did not put him off, as it might have done to many.
These are just some of the 40,000+ stories of the marathon today, and why it is such an amazing event.
To celebrate my friends’ fantastic success I made some banana chocolate chip muffins! This is the recipe I used from a website called BakingMad. (Great name!) Of course I tweaked it a bit. I used a mixture of light brown and granulated sugar, and milk chocolate chips instead of dark. I also substituted 25g of flour for cocoa powder, for more chocolate flavour. And because my bananas were not so big I used 3, instead of 2.
They look good! They smell good! I haven’t tasted them because they are not for me. But that’s ok.
So many people, and so many reasons why people run a marathon. But London is special, and I have had to stop myself entering the ballot – just in case I ended up with a place 🤣.
This weekend I have been in Ramsgate celebrating a special birthday. It was a great reason to make a delicious cake. This is a cake I have made several times before, and it’s the kind of cake that is straightforward to make but makes a big impact in terms of flavour and moistness.
It’s a recipe by Claudia Roden, collated in Favourite Recipes from Books for Cooks. There’s a lemon version, and my sister makes one with clementines. Flourless, it only has a few ingredients- oranges, ground almonds, sugar, eggs, butter and baking powder. Decoration is not my forte or particular interest. So I made a stencil and dusted icing sugar over to make a simple decoration.
The other great thing about this cake is that it’s even better the next day, always a good quality for a cake that’s going away for the weekend. It is delicious on its own, it’s even better with a simple orange syrup and a dollop of crème fraiche.
I can highly recommend this cake. It’s always popular, and really easy to make.
Running news: last week I have done 2 runs. Each one seemed a little easier than the previous one. Tomorrow I am going to try for the longest run of my training plan. Three and a half hours! I will give it a go!
I am raising money for JDRF, a charity that funds research to find a cure for Type1 diabetes. Type1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that often affects children, although it can develop at any age. The cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are attacked by the body’s own immune defences in error. Eventually no insulin is produced at all. The result of that is that glucose, which is essential for providing energy to the body, is not able to be used by the muscles and cells that keep us going. It flows around in the blood with nowhere to go. Of course this is a disaster, so people with Type1 diabetes have to inject insulin at very regular intervals all day, every day for all their lives.
Keeping the balance right between enough insulin, and too much – which would result in a lack of glucose and a condition called hypoglycaemia which can result in coma – is difficult and constant. Research funded by JDRF is getting closer to a cure. In the meantime other research is making lives easier for those adults and children with Type 1 – new technologies like wearable glucose monitors and insulin pumps make it easier to manage the condition.
Please consider sponsoring me for the Rome marathon which is happening on 19th March – THREE WEEKS!!!!!! the link is here. Thank you.
Another banana bread?! There are, it seems, an infinite number of recipes and variations on the banana bread theme, and this one was created on a special day – the birth-day, of my third beautiful grandson! So it’s a birthday banana cake!
I wondered what kind of cake to make and looked around the kitchen.. lo and behold a bunch of bananas just about to go past their best! And I also had some dates from a while back. A quick search on the internet for a recipe – there are lots – and I found just the thing.
This iteration is banana-date-walnut with a touch of honey. I made a few tweaks, and didn’t do the honey/ walnut glaze, as I thought that was a bit too much.
The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and can be found by clicking here. So what did I tweak? Well I made it in a loaf tin not a Bundt tin. The main reason for that was that the loaf tin was to hand, and the Bundt tin was buried somewhere in the cupboard. Also it’s a pain greasing the Bundt tin so that the cake reliably turns out without sticking. I added a bit of nutmeg as well as the cinnamon. And I changed the method a bit.
3 tbsp clear honey – mine wasn’t clear but I don’t think it makes any difference
2 overripe bananas – 350g with the skins on – I used 3 & 1/2 small ones
200g stoned dates, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to Mark 3 (but I actually set mine closer to 4); 160C or 140C fan. Line a non stick loaf tin with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla and honey. Add the flour and spices. Mix in the dates, walnuts and banana. Mix well. Turn into the tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes – check with a cake tester or skewer – it should come out clean, and the cake should just be pulling away from the sides of the tin.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.
The cake was very delicious. The dates are like little nuggets of caramel dotted about, with the slightly crunchy texture of the walnuts an excellent contrast. I think a bit more cinnamon and other spices wouldn’t go amiss next time. Altogether a very nice recipe, and quick to prepare. Recommended!
As I mentioned in my previous post my ability to process sugar is not good, and I have pre diabetes. A cake like this with sugar, honey, dates and flour is not a great addition to my diet, sadly. However there are proven ways of reducing the blood glucose spike that will inevitably occur after eating a piece of cake. So with a little adjustment I can have my cake AND eat it (albeit only occasionally). Tonight I had my slice as dessert after dinner, and then went for a 30 minute walk. I am hoping that this is enough to prevent a spike. The last couple of months have been an interesting learning curve, and I may well write a post at some point about some of the fascinating things I have learned. The main one is that running a lot is not enough!
I’ve been on my travels again, and am now in Woodbury, Minnesota, just outside the Twin Cities. We’re staying with more very dear friends, Tracy and David, who we haven’t seen since 2019 when we were all in Florida.
They are in the process of moving home, and had a sizeable bowl of lemons as part of ‘set dressing’ for showing their beautiful home to prospective buyers. And now they have a buyer (fingers crossed!) so what to do with a large number of lemons? Why, make a lemon cake!
Tracy kindly lent me the use of her kitchen, and also helped out with measuring, melting, turning on the oven, washing up and generally being very useful!
I would recommend the use of a microplane zester for the lemons, as you can make very fine zest that mixes evenly with the rest of the ingredients. Also you wouldn’t have to ice them if you wanted to keep the sugar content down a bit. Instead you could dust with icing sugar just before serving, or even leave them plain. We tested for doneness after 20 minutes and then 25, and the cake appeared to be still too wet in the middle. But – another 5 minutes and they were almost TOO done, so I would advise taking them out of the oven just before you think they are actually cooked – tricky timing, and it’s not the end of the world. But they could’ve been just a little bit more squidgy for maximum deliciousness!
The recipe is from this website Bakerella, but there are many versions of it, and a lot of the recipes are exactly the same. I do not therefore have any qualms about reproducing it here. Actually I am not reproducing it verbatim, as I have adapted it (as usual 😂), and added some blueberries.
FOR THE BARS:
1 cup plain/ all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lemon zest (approx 3 lemons)
3/4 cup unsalted (or salted – omit the extra salt) butter almost completely melted and then cooled
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of blueberries – optional – my addition!
FOR THE GLAZE:
1.5 cups icing sugar/ powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp (or a bit more) lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
Grease an 8” square pan or line with foil/ non stick parchment. Preheat oven to 350*/ Gas mark 4.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest using a whisk.
Add melted butter, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely combined. Add the blueberries.
Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. But not TOO done. Remove from oven and cool.
Make the glaze by mixing the sieved icing sugar with the lemon zest and juice, and pour over the cooled Lemonies. Let it set before cutting.
This is a classic carrot cake recipe from my very dear friend Tracy. My family and I have been making this for literally decades, and I think it’s the best one ever. It always works, and it’s always loved by everyone.
It’s easy to make too. The dry flour mixture goes in the bowl, and then the sugar, oil and eggs are mixed in to make a smooth, thick batter. At this point it doesn’t look like a cake batter, but do not worry! Once the carrots, pineapple, walnuts and coconut are mixed in the batter loosens up.
Nowadays it seems to be very difficult to get tinned crushed pineapple, so I use pineapple chunks and then chop them after they’re drained.
I’ve always made this in a 13” x 9” tin but my sister makes it in 2 x 8” round tins and sandwiches them with the cream cheese frosting.
It’s so full of carrots, pineapple and walnuts that you can kid yourself it is healthy. Of course it’s also full of sugar… but hey – it’s a special occasion.
I’ve made these buns before, and I wrote about them here. Today I made them with Portuguese olive oil instead of Spanish. I think they came out a little heavier than last time, although it’s hard to remember!
The Portuguese olive oil was special, extra virgin and unfiltered, from the harvest of 2021. Full of flavour, you can almost just drink it neat.
The recipe can be found on this lovely Spanish recipe website. The recipe is for one cake – it was my idea to make it into small buns. I have just had another look through the site, and it has some yummy sounding recipes that I’d like to try.
The original post (2019) was full of photos from our holiday in Majorca. This time I’m going to show you some recent photos that showcase Spring!
PS. I am still running! Just not quite as much as usual – I seem to be doing a lot of walking lately. You can read about some of my walks on my other blog: Walking the London Loop. I also have a little plan up my sleeve for my running journey – and hope to write about it soon!
Here is another recipe for banana bread/cake! This time it is from the lovely Nadiya Hussain, who won the 2015 series of Great British Bake Off. I was really intrigued by the addition of thyme, and also the fact that the ingredients include olive oil, and no eggs.
So I set to. The cake was not a total success. But not an unmitigated failure either. And I know where I went wrong, and it’s totally my fault, not the recipe!
Gathering everything together before I started I was pleased that I already had a half a pot of double cream for the caramel. And exactly 4 small bananas, at the perfect level of ripeness for banana bread. However. I did not have any self raising flour. Oh well, I thought, not a disaster, I will use baking powder. But. No baking powder.
At this point it was 8.30 on a Sunday morning, pouring with rain and blowing a hooley. And I was still in my pyjamas! I did not feel like going down to the shop just to get some baking powder. So – I will make my own baking powder. I looked up the proportions of bicarbonate of soda to cream of tartar (1:2 if you’re wondering). I calculated how much I would need for 300g of flour. All good. Oh but, no but, no. Somehow I managed to put in a little too much raising agent, which meant that the the cake rose and rose far too quickly and then sank like a soggy stone!
The outcome was a loaf cake with a deep well along the middle. But the caramel needs a place to settle, right?! And the caramel is good! So, although it definitely didn’t come out as the handsomest cake ever, which is a shame as the sliced banana on top does look pretty cool, it was very tasty. We decided it tasted a bit like those yummy toffee bananas you get as pudding in Chinese restaurants.
And the thyme? It’s very subtle, but there is a hint of herbal tang and aroma which lifts this cake from the ordinary. I will have to make it again, with a proper flour/ raising agent mix.
You can find the recipe on the BBC website by clicking this link. (You really need to click on it to see what it is supposed to look like!) I didn’t change anything much (except the crucial specified flour 😂). You could make this without the caramel – but don’t. The salted caramel lifts it to another level.
I have made a very similar loaf to this before – Welsh Bara Brith, which I wrote about in this post here. This version was in the Guardian Food section on Saturday and you can find it online next week, unless you happen to have bought a hard copy today, or subscribe. (As soon as I can I will add the link.) The article discussed different versions, and then came up with a ‘classic-best-recipe’. In Ireland this fruit loaf was traditionally made at Halloween, but nowadays is popular all year round. Like bara brith it was originally a yeasted bread, and some recipes still use this method. However it’s usually made as a quick bread now with baking powder.
300ml strong tea
50ml whisky – or an extra 50ml tea
25g mixed peel – roughly chopped if it’s not already
25g glacé cherries – quartered
25g chopped blanched almonds (texture) – or I used ground almonds
150g light muscovado sugar (I used 130g of a mix of dark brown and golden caster sugar because that’s what I had)
210g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
Soak the sultanas and currants in the tea (and whisky) for at least 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (160 fan) Gas 4. Grease and line a 13cm x 20cm loaf tin. Stir the peel, cherries and almonds into the soaked fruit.
In another bowl which together the sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and salt. The stir into the fruit with the beaten egg. Tip the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 90 minutes, covering the top after an hour if it’s getting too brown. A skewer or cake tester should come out clean.
Leave for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
In the recipe as written there is an optional sugar glaze but I really don’t think it needs it. The main difference between this recipe and the Welsh one is the amount of fruit, which is way more in the Irish version. It comes out really squishy and damp. And yummy! The spice is just right, and with a little bit of butter it makes a very delicious tea time treat.
I’ve also been thinking it would make a good snack when on a long walk. Which brings me to my new venture – I’ve started a new blog called Walking the London Loop, which is all about – well you can guess! If you have the time and inclination take a look.
So it’s 2022. Yay! And traditionally it’s the time to look back on the last year. I do wish I had managed to write a few more blog posts, but I have been so busy, and at times quite unmotivated if I am honest. But there have been many good things this year. I managed two trail runs which were a lot of fun. And I also did the wonderful Ealing half marathon, as well as the Ealing parks challenge which was wonderful – getting into all the corners of Ealing borough that I would never normally go to.
As always I feel grateful to live in an area where there are so many nice places to run that are in green spaces – right on the doorstep!
I was very lucky to be able to get away to the beautiful Isle of Arran in July for a walking holiday. I feel so grateful that my friend and I were able to do that, given the horrible winter we seem to be having lately. Thinking about all the lovely things that happened in 2021 certainly picks me up when things feel hard.
I also had a holiday in Suffolk, and ran some familiar routes there. The weather was good, and it was lovely to be by the sea with good friends for a few days.
I have not done so much baking this year, or perhaps I just haven’t written about it as much! I’ve made some nice things and some not so nice (!). Highlights were the apple buns and the magic custard cakes!
In May all the family managed a few days near Buxton in Derbyshire when the babies – my beautiful grandsons – met for the first time since being born on the same day in 2020!
Today was the first day of a new year, so time to start as you mean to go on – a nice easy 6km run around one of my favourite parks – Pitshanger Park. It was so warm I went out in shorts and a t-shirt and was still too hot!
I haven’t yet decided on any ‘challenges’ for 2022… right now there’s enough going in my life without any more challenge thank you very much!
I am hoping to write a bit more regularly – I’ve been sharpening the pencils and filling the inkwells in readiness.
Happy New Year to all my readers! Wishing you all good health and happiness. 😊