Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Peanut Butter Withdrawal

Oh, here's something to report.

I have decided to give up peanut butter. My beloved, delicious, happiness-giving peanut butter.

I just love it too much. I have far too much of it, and moderation is unlikely to be an option.

In the manner of the 12 steps, I have admitted i have a problem, have thought of those I have hurt due to the problem (Namely my colleague, who's peanut butter i stole to eat with a spoon surreptitiously in the kitchen at work once) and will make amends (buy him some peanut butter). I don't believe in God, so my higher power is Maru, the box loving gorgeously round cat.

So far, it's been ok. The first day i found myself google imaging pictures of peanut butter. The secind day i got the shakes. But so far, I haven't given in.

Hayley xxx

Severe Reprimands are required

I know, I know dear blog friends, I have been seriously neglecting you and am outrightly flouting the code of Blog Pact.

You know how it is over Christmas.

In the meantime, let me direct you to the Private Pie blog, which has a write-up of our first ever meeting.

Eventually, I'll get round to posting the recipe for my much-loved christmas pie.

I think my New Year's Resolution is obvious- BLOG MORE!

Thanks for being patient

Hayley xxx

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Winter Wonderland Cake Club

What a great Clandestine Cake Club the November one was.

Detail from Lisa's snowball cake
First off, my friend Frankie and her mum were there. Frankie is awesome, and her mum is just fabulous. She's so funny and lovely. They brought along a very lovely egg nogg cake.

Secondly, having my cake photographed again for Appetite magazine. for all I whinge about not having a chance to do my hair beforehand, it really is flattering and exciting to have my cake chosen again to appear in the press. 

Thirdly was having the chance to tell everyone about Private Pie Club. Everyone was so positive and excited about the idea, and we signed a few people up. There were also lots of people who were busy on the day, but who said they really wanted to go to future meetings. 

Fourthly, was the lovely selection of cakes there were. this event had proved really popular and there were some new bakers there who it was lovely to meet.

Fifthly, and most definitely not last, was the presence of Lynne Hill, the founder of Clandestine Cake Club. I felt like I was meeting cake royalty! It was lovely to meet her, and to see how proud she was that her idea was bringing so many people together. 

Anyway, I shall now shut up, and let the pictures of cake do the talking. Apologies to anyone who's cake doesn't get a picture here. The cameras in my battery gave up half way through :(

Kate's cranberry and dark chocolate panettone

Alison's sugar plum fairy cake

Julia's Pear and mincemeat crumble cake- my favourite cake of the night.

Lisa's Snowball cake (which Frankie's mum adored, bordering on the obsessive)

Sarah's chocolate and mulled wine cake
Julie's Spiced orange cake
Frankie's eggnog cake

That Old Chestnut


No, I don't think it's too early to be getting in the festive mood. No, I don't get sick of christmas songs in a loop. Yes, I did have my first mince pie in September and no, it didn't feel wrong.


So of course I was excited for November's Clandestine Cake Club, which had a "Winter Wonderland" theme.

I decided to make a chestnut cake, from an old cake recipe book that i have. The way the cake was decorated in the book, however, left a lot to be desired. It was all very 80's, with swirly bits of cream everywhere. So I decided to go with a snowy wintry scene that i had seen in another cake decorating book, which was actually supposed to be a wedding cake.

Making the cake mixture was almost the same technique as making sachertorte, but with chestnut puree instead of chocolate. I had to separate 9 eggs and whisk up the whites, then fold the eggs whites carefully into the mixture. Then came the exciting bit...

The cake was filled with a (very delicious) chestnut and rum cream. This tasted... potent, and rather pleasant if i may say so myself (yes, I admit that i did eat quite a bit off a spoon once the cake was finished). I am starting to worry that the CCC may end up organising an AA intervention at some point for me, as i seem to be building a reputation for bringing alcoholic cakes!

The cake is loaded with rum cream :)
Then it was time for decorating. I used royal icing, and placed pine cones, bay leaves, and rosemary on top to make a bit of a wintry woodland floor type scene. Then added a few tea lights to bring a nice warm wintry glow to the cake when lit. Then a sprinkling of sugar lumps to look like little lumps of snow, and some generous handfuls of icing sugar and caster sugar to make it look super snowy, and ta-da! a wintry, snowy chestnut cake:

I had a minor panic just before the CCC. I had to go there straight from work so the cake had to sit in the fridge at work for the day, which is a danger in itself with the gannets that i work with. Then I realised that most of the "snow" icing sugar had melted, so i had to detour for some extra icing sugar on the way to the meeting. Once the candles were lit though, it did look pretty impressive, and it caught the eye of a photographer and journalist who were there for appetite magazine, so I ended up having to have another post-work, messy hair and rubbish make-up photo-shoot :-S

The inside of the cake was strange, kind of pinky and pate-ish in colour. The cake itself didn't taste of a huge amount, but the chestnut and rum cream was lovely.

More on cake club soon!

Stir Up Saturday and Sunday

Hi all,

I'm so behind on blogging, I really do apologise. So now it is time to do some serious catching up!

A few weekends ago I decided I would have my own little Stir-Up Sunday, although it was actually Saturday, and it spilled over into the sunday anyway.

I made christmas puddings, to Nigella's recipe. I am very pleased with myself for managing to avoid the disaster which occurred last year, which led to the destruction of one christmas pudding, one steaming pot, and one rather pricey Jamie Oliver pan. This time I kept a keen eye on them while they were steaming and made sure no melting happened.

This year's puds seem to have a much better colour than when i've made them in the past. Last time I used cointreau and they were quite er, potent shall we say. This year, I invested in some sherry, so they should be a bit more gentle on the taste buds.

Then I also made stollen. A long time ago i was a pre-reg pharmacist working in a hospital, and there was a German pharmacist working there. She brought some stollen in, and I loved it, so demanded the recipe. I remember her telling us the recipe off the top of her head, then she said "You'll never be able to make it properly without being actually German" (I do think she was kidding).

Anyway, I've made stollen every year since to that recipe and it's pretty much always a triumph/ What that you say? You want the recipe? Well only if you are very, very good.

I always make huge quantities of the stollen mixture, then get a bit scared by the fact that it appears to attempt to take over the whole kitchen after proving.

And here they are in all their Fresh-Out-The-Oven glory. This time I made one big one and two little ones. One will probably be accompanying me to work at some point, as i've been getting requests for stollen already from my colleagues.

Hayley xxx


The Christmas puddings were an absolute triumph. My family really enjoyed one on Christmas day, and even my Grandma, who is very vocal about not liking Christmas pudding, tried some and declared it yummy. The boyf and I had our own little Christmas Dinner also when he came up after Christmas, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy his generous portion with ice cream!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Quick Catch-up

Hi my lovelies,

Just a quick post to say that i promise i will be doing a decent post soon. I've been fairly busy lately, ironically mainly baking, to get down to writing any proper posts.

It's the Winter themed Clandestine Cake Club tomorrow though, and it's going to be a busy one! There are so many really exciting cakes on the list, and i'm quite pleased with how mine has turned out this time.

You will hear all about it soon, I promise,

Oceans of love,

Hayley xxx

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Long and Rocky Road

Oh. My. Goodness. How excited am I about telling you about this cake? Very! In pharmacy terms, there is a type of drug interaction where two drugs add together to create an effect which is greater than the sum of each drug alone, which is known as potentiation.

Chocolate cake is good.

Rocky Road is good.

Chocolate cake + Rocky Road = OMG THIS IS HEAVEN AND ITS THE BEST THING EVAR!!!!

A friend at work gave me a baking calendar for next year. I just couldn't wait to make this rocky road chocolate cake so Boyf and I gave it a go this weekend.

First, we melted some Stork, and stirred in the sugar (I'm going to post the recipe onto the recipes page so check that out if you're wanting to give this cake a go. And frankly, I don't see how you could possibly not want to give it a go)

... Then we folded in the flour and cocoa powder, poured the mixture into a tin, and baked for about 30 mins. In the meantime, we made a huge batch of chocolate brownies as well...

...Then when the cake had cooled, Boyf carefully and precisely (as is his way) arranged the marshamallows...

... Then we covered the whole lot in a massive amount of chocolatey- Malteser-y-walnut-ty goop, and popped it in the fridge to set.

The result is a layer of chocolate cake covered in a big thick layer of rocky road. I need say no more. GO MAKE IT! you know you want to!

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Hello all,

Had a lovely holiday, thank you very much. I have returned with quite a serious addiction to olives and feta cheese, however. It was very quiet, as most things were closed in Malia with it being off-season, but we found ways to amuse ourselves, including visiting Knossos to hunt for the minotaur.

Last weekend i was down in London to see The Boyf, so we decided to do a spot of baking. I haven't made muffins for ages, so we thought we would whip up a couple of batches. Everything that Boyf bakes appears to need to contain chocolate, and lots of it, so we settled on double chocolate chunk muffins, and i demanded to make Nigella's divine snickers and peanut butter muffins as well.

We had to go shopping for ingredients and everything. For some reason i was slightly disappointed at the fact that London branches of Tesco are the same as North East ones, as if the south is a whole other country. My style of shopping usually consists of meandering about slowly looking at everything new and being seduced by shiny, brightly coloured packaging. I established  that alas, this is not how The Boyf shops at all (go directly to aisle required, select item, that is all)

We used this recipe for the double chocolate chunk muffins. The cinnamon was an odd addition, and initially we feared it was going to be a bit overpowered but the finished article was yummy.

Meanwhile (as The Boyf sloooowly and precisely measured out exact amounts of muffin mixture to go into each muffin cup, bless him), i made a start on the snickers and peanut butter muffins. I made these years ago from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, and they were amazing, and got rave reviews from those who tried them (including the staff in my local salon, who would regularly tell me how wonderful they were in a subtle hint kind of a way). Anyway, as you will probably know by now, I do have a serious peanut butter addiction, so these muffins are a joy for me.

There will be more baking this weekend, so expect more posts. It will involve more chocolate, yay!

In other news, the arrangements for Private Pie are coming along nicely. Will let you know as things develop further.

Hayley xxx

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

My Excuse Note

Dear Blog Pact,

Please may i be excused from the Blog Pact bond for about 2 weeks, on account of me being on holiday and not being able to blog.

I promise that i will make up for my absence  and tell you all about my holiday when i return

Many thanks,

Hayley xx

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Very Exciting (and Secret) Development

I'm quite rubbish at keeping daft but exciting secrets, so I'm going to tell you all about this Top Secret and marvellous thing that is happening at the moment..

Inspired by the lovely Lisa, and the Clandestine Cake Club, my friend Nancy and I have decided to make our very own food-based secret society.

A secret pie club! Similar principles to the CCC, (you only find out about the venue 24 hours before, you can bring a non-baking friend, you have to make a pie that will feed 8-12 people), but with a more savoury option, although sweet pies are still very much welcome.

Our website is under construction at the minute, but i've started off a little blog 
Aaaand, we have a twitter account ( @private_pie)
Aaaaaaaaaaaand, we have a Facebook page as well 

So, once i am back from my holidays, we are going to go and have a look for venues. We have somewhere in mind which i think will be perfect, but fingers crossed that it all works out.

I am really, so excited about this!

Hayley xxx

Baking Battle- Pie Edition

And so, dear friends, we find ourselves in Bake-Off territory again.

There has been a lot of talk about pie in my life at the minute (more on this later) and so a pie-based bake-off was clearly the way forward. The rules were such:

1. Home made pastry, no shop bought laziness
2. The filling had to be sweet
3. The pie had to be wholly covered in pastry (no American style pie for this here challenge.)

Nancy and I had that day at work been discussing the theory of rhubarb and custard pie. A pie with inherent, built in custard. And i found this recipe, which had our mouths watering. So this was the obvious choice, wasn't it? Yes, I know the crumble topping would breach the rules, but i figured i would just ditch that for pastry, and away we go. So, armed with my shopping list, off I went ingredient shopping.

Except... THERE IS NO RHUBARB! anywhere! I went to numerous places in the market, no rhubarb. I went to a supermarket, hoping to find some GM mutant version from Chile or somewhere... Not a stick to be seen, except for the Encased-In-Tin variety. Tinned rhubarb felt like cheating though for a bake-off, so instead i grabbed the nearest fruit, which happened to be pears. I haven't actually had a pear for years, and could barely remember what they tasted like, so i thought this would be high-risk, but fun. I added some pecans into the mixture too, and a handful of sultanas, just because they were there. I had to blind bake the base, and i'm still not 100% used to the quirks of my oven, so the crust of the pie was a bit overdone.

Alas, no. Despite the fact that the pie tastes divine, it was unanimously voted against in favour of The Boy's Pie. Like me, he had to have a last minute ingredients change as he intended to make an apple and blackberry pie but could find no blackberries. So he opted for an apple and raspberry option. A robust, if a little on the safe side, choice of filling. And yes, lets give him a few extra points for his geeky decoration shall we? And let's kindly ignore the fact that the tail on his pi symbol is the wrong way around ;) (sorry, I am bitter about losing this challenge)

The Boy's pie

Pi Pie... See what he did there?
The judges this time were: Boy's parents, and brother. They were instructed to each come to an independent decision. And they each chose The Boy's pie. Suspicious? Lets hope so. "They said pie number 2 was burnt and they thought it was meat filled" he says. Well, please. Clearly the idea of a pie with integral custard is just too advanced for this world. Pff!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Very Cool Night Out

Hi all,

Have any of you been to Icebar London? I went there last week and it was FABULOUS! What is it? Well, it's a bar, which is MADE OF ICE! Yay!

It's located just off Regent Street, and it's wonderful. It's very beautiful, with bits of artwork around about, and the ice itself is  harvested from Sweden and the bar is kept permanently at around minus 5. When we went, the designs included some nice quotes in the walls. The decorations are changed once yearly.

You get a furry cape to wear when you go in, with gloves attached, because, and here is the best bit, you glass is made of ice!

They serve some nice cocktails (I had a Singapore Sling and a Mojito, whilst The Boy just had whatever was the brightest pink, as is his way with cocktails), and the main problem with the whole experience is that it's only 40 mins long. And a normal pub seems like a bit of a let down after being in there!

Last weekend we also went to a planetarium, which was wonderful, and I was sent off home with a supply of The Boy's very marvelous apple crumble. A lovely weekend all round.

Hayley xxx

Monday, 17 October 2011

National Cakes at the Clandestine Cake Club

This post is going to focus on some of the other lovely cakes that made appearances at the Clandestine Cake Club. Despite the minor disasters that befell most of us, it's always impressive to see a table chock full of a tasty mismatch of home made cake. I love the differences in textures, colours, heights, and shapes of the cakes themselves but also the different plates, cake stands etc. I know i am amused by small things but there is just something wonderfully welcoming about the whole vista of cake. 

It's worth noting that Nancy and I were going to see Nero after Cake Club. Considering i had to lie down for two hours after last time's visit to the club, we had to limit ourselves to a maximum of 4 bits of cake on the evening. Otherwise, the combination of lots of cake, vodka, kahlua, monster energy drink, and dubstep dancing could have made for a very messy evening. We did make sure to pack away quite a lot of cake though, on the basis that it would make for good hangover fodder for the next day.

So here are the cakes individually. First we have Lisa's Double espresso and Brazil nut cake. For Brazil, the country you see. This was consumed after i got in from the dubstep night so to be perfectly honest, I can't quite remember how it tasted =D. I know that's not hugely helpful to my loyal blog readers but hey, honesty is always the best option.

Then there was Catherine's Jamaican Gingerbread cake. This had disintegrated a bit but tasted absolutely wonderful, particularly with the addition of a cream in the middle.

 Next up is a lovely looking Bailey's Irish Cream cake by Julia:

A Chocolate Chile cake by Sarah (which took a few mouthfuls to get used to, but it had a really delicious flavour and an extraordinary texture which I was very amenable to):

And this is Hannah's imaginative sushi cake, beautifully decorated and made of a yummy coconut sponge:

Emily's Malteser cake (for Malta, you see... I love what she did there!):

And a really terrible picture of Nancy's Chocolate Guinness cake. This cake recipe is rather famous in our workplace, where is is usually made by our colleague Jane and is regularly requested whenever we have any baking or buffets at work. So Nancy's had a go at the recipe, which i think is based on one of Nigella Lawsons, and lo and behold it was a triumph of dark moist cakey joy:

Liz made this Moroccan Orange and Almond cake, which was lovely dipped in yoghurt, which she was kind enough to provide for us. This cake really did have a lovely flavour.

A Canadian maple syrup and salted walnut cake by Val. Standing True, Strong, and Free:

And, of course, a trusty, British, Victoria sponge, made by Clare:

There was one other cake which my rubbish phone camera just did not do justice to the decoration, so I am going to refer you straight to her blog A spoonful of Sugar instead. This was Bara Brith, made by Kate, which had a beautiful little Welsh Dragon sat proudly on top of it. Bara Brith is a fruit cake/ loaf type affair, and a huge wedge of it made for a truly excellent Morning-After-The-Night-Before Breakfast

Overdosing on cake part two

Hi all,

Much to report to my little corner of bloggyland at the moment so bear with me while i catch up with you all.

First off, is my report from my second time at the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle. This meeting's theme? A National Cake (as it was National Cake Week last week, and the cake club meet fell on the Wednesday). I was also very excited to find out that this time, Cake Club would be meeting at the Tyneside Cinema, a place which is very dear to my heart and one of my favourite places in this wonderful city.

So, I thought about my cake that I would make. Well, in actual fact, my friend Nancy and I had many very lengthy conversations, panics, and discussions about the cakes we would make. And I settled on a White Russian cake, mainly because the recipe contained a whole load of alcohol (kahlua and vodka) and there isn't much better in life that a combination of alcohol and cake.

The really interesting about this cake club, was the fact that everyone seemed to have a tale of a cake-based disaster to tell. There were cake cracks, cake disintegrations, cakes dipping in the middle, cakes with saggy frosting, and in my case, slightly burnt cakes and curdled cream due to too much alcohol being added. All these disasters made us all feel a bit better and meant that good conversation flowed freely and made us all feel much better about our cake stresses. My way of dealing with my curdled vodka kahlua cream was to remember that well known old proverb "If your cake goes a bit wrong, put s**t loads of gold dust, cherries, and chocolate on top to hide it".

All that glitters tastes rather nice
Well, this seems to have worked, as there was a journalist and a photographer there that night who were wanting to report on the cake club, and the photographer seemed quite taken with my cake. In fact, he seemed quite taken with the whole idea "What, so you meet up every month, and bring cake and eat cake? Wow!". So, before i knew it, i was whisked off into the alleyway outside the cinema for some photographs with my cake. Despite a minor panic attack about the state of my make-up and hair, and demands for extreme air-brushing, I'm actually not as horrified at the results as I thought i would be. Here it is in situ, in the Sunday Sun:

I know what you're thinking! Hotel Rooms for just £10!!
And you can see the article online here: Secret Cake Making Club Cooking up a Frenzy. I'm so pleased to see it doing so well, and would like to say many congratulations and thanks to Lisa for organising such a great event. Check out her blog The Wonderful World of @loopygirl whenever you get a moment.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Great Sachertorte Skirmish of 2011

Hi all,

This weekend saw another bake-off between The Boy and I.

The challenge? Inspired by the Great British Bake-Off, we decided to make Sachertorte. I've wanted to make this cake for ages, and having had a taste of some at the Clandestine Cake Club, I wanted to make it even more. So off we went to get ingredients, at Saturday at 4pm saw us lock horns in our little inter-city, pan-regional baking event. This bake-off was very important to me after The Great Cheesecake Debacle. My baking pride was at stake.

The recipe I used (I will get round to posting recipes on here one day, I promise), called for a lot of egg white whisking, which is very hard work, but worth it for the light, fluffy texture of the cake. Then, in a high-risk, high-potential pay-off move, I went for a topping made with a sugar syrup instead of a cream-based ganache. High risk, because i don't own a thermometer and i know how precise you have to be when it comes to sugar, so i just had to guess when it got to 120o. Luckily I remembered to buy a new piping set as my trusty old piping syringe got lost in my move after christmas.

The cake baking started out ok, with a nice sized, nicely risen cake. I then covered it with apricot jam, and attempted to top it with the chocolate topping. This was far too runny though, and lots and lots of coats had to be applied before it would start to stick. Even after being left in the fridge overnight, the topping still hadn't set, but i had enough on there to pipe the decoration on. Sachertorte traditional has the word 'Sacher' (after Franz Sacher, the inventor of the cake) on the top in chocolate. Herein lies an inherent problem i have with baking: Just go ahead and wing it, and hope for the best, or practice, and risk doing it perfectly on your practice then messing it up on the real thing. I decided to have a practice on the basis that The Boy is very precise, so i would have to be too in order to win. The piping turned out ok, although the practice was definitely better than the real thing.

The apricot jam is applied
Runny chocolate coating is ridiculously messy!

Practice went ok!
The real one didn't go quite as ok, but is still acceptable

The cake went back in the fridge, then when I checked on it later, the S had migrated as the cake had been at a bit of an angle in the fridge. This was a total disaster, but all was not lost as i managed to gently nudge the rogue letter back to its rightful place.

Rogue S!
Once he had finished, it was time for judging. As you know, we take great pains to blind our efforts from our 'independent' judge, Nancy. However, she felt she had to bow out of this competition as she thought she had guessed whose was whose from the piping (and obviously, knowing she wouldget cake from me if i won, this would put her independence into jeopardy.

So this time, we had a grand total of 5 judges. 3 of my friends, and 2 of his. And the score? 4-1 to ME!! And, if i do say so myself, my sachertorte was a triumph. It was baked perfectly, tasted wonderful, and looked alright in the end, despite the slightly dodgy topping. It was very quickly snaffled by my friends and colleagues.

note the uniform texture inside. I'm well proud of that, I am!

Part of me wants to make this again, immediately. The rest of me is saying "don't you ever, ever make this ever again. Quit while you're ahead!". I guess we shall see....

Aaaand here they are... The long awaited photos of The Boy's *losing* cake...

Very precise piping, but the lack of swirly bits may have decreased  the prettiness factor.

More gooey than mine, which is good, but not as uniformly baked...
I know, I know, I am a terrible winner. And I am also a terrible loser, which doesn't matter in this particular case ;)

Hayley xxx