30 Dec 2014

Top 5 Recipes of 2014

Top 5 Recipes of 2014

I'm wishing you all – especially the 44,000 of you that will click on Lemon Drizzle cake next year
A Happy New Year! What makes the Lemon cake so special for you? Yes it's delicious and delivers results but I seem to get the most ever clicks on that recipe over everything else? You lot need to look at something else. Here: take a look at these: My year's best bites!

1) I found the holy grail of Brownies: These will be my signature Brownies – the slight crust on the outside and soft and chocolate-y on the inside!

2) I liked this recipe as it was simple to do but elegant at the same time. Great for entertaining without the fuss: Thin Pear Tart

3) Here's one I made (10 times) earlier. This recipe was on repeat for about a month. I did like mine with Hazlenuts: Perfect Flapjacks

4) And I found a plain sponge that 'just works': Nigella's Victoria Sponge

5) Last but not least, I need to hurry up and post these: Pecan Pie Bars. Coming soon, I promise!

20 Dec 2014

3 Quick Ways to Soften Butter

quick ways soften butter

So. You're in the mood for baking and you're mind is on cake. It's like your lucky day as all the right ingredients are ready and waiting! You get your measuring scales ready and start on your first ingredient only to read: "160g butter, softened"Darn, you only just removed that butter from the fridge, so it's stone cold!

Believe me, I've been there. Sometimes, I just want to bake something spontaneously and waiting for butter to soften at room temperature is not on my mind. So, it's only fair I share a few ways I go to get that butter the right temperature.

  1. Dice the butter into squares and put into a bowl of warm water. Carefully remove the butter after ten minutes, by which time it should be soft. This is my favourite method as it gets good results all the time. 

  2. Use a rolling pin and bash the butter on a hard surface like a chopping board until flat and squidgy.

  3. If you trust your microwave, evenly dice your butter then slowly heat in the microwave on a 'warm' or 'defrost' setting for a few seconds, but do keep an eye on it.

Ultimately, if you can reach the gold standard of forward thinking and remove your butter from the fridge hours before, then do so and happy days to you! I always find a post-it note seen early in the morning is a great reminder!

9 Dec 2014

5 tips for perfect banana cake


Look on the internet and you're sure to find plenty of recipes for banana cake. It's probably one of the easiest cakes to make with satisfying results. It's pretty much my go-to recipe and was the very first cake featured on this blog back in 2012! So I must have got better at making it since 2012, so here's what makes a perfect recipe for me:

1– Get that butter out of the fridge early enough. Your butter should be nice and soft at room temperature so that it creams well with your sugar. I tend to measure the required amount out first and cube it into smaller pieces so that it doesn't take all day to soften.

2– Speaking of sugar, leave the caster sugar alone. Use soft brown sugar instead. I find it produces more of a rich flavour that goes well with banana.

3– Blend the bananas! If you can blend your bananas instead of mashing with a fork the taste of the banana is spread uniform throughout the cake.

4– Make it pretty. Loaf cakes can look fashionably rustic or just down right dull. Decorate with some walnut pieces to really finish off.

115g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
230g self-raising flour, sieved
4 ripe bananas
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
handful of walnuts to decorate

24x10x6 cm loaf tin

Pre-heat your oven to 170°C/ 340°F.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Whisk your eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the mixture. With a hand blender puree your bananas into a consistent pulp and then stir into the mixture until well combined.

Sieve the self-raising flour into a separate bowl, followed by the cinnamon and nutmeg. Add these dry ingredients to the mixture and combine well.

Spoon your mixture into a pre-greased 24x10x6 cm loaf tin. Once done, scatter your walnut pieces over the top of the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes at 170°C, then reduce the temperature to 150°C and bake for another 35 minutes.

Leave the banana cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve in thick slices.

Result: Yum.

21 Oct 2014

How Not To Decorate a Cake

How not to decorate cake

I’m one of those people that believes with the right tuition and enough practise, I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m quite good at picking things up and am a fast learner. So I had a go at decorating cake!  As you can see from the exhibits above, it didn’t go too well but I’m at a stage now where I can laugh at myself and mock my futile attempt! And I don’t mind if you have a laugh too.

Those lob-sided strips are meant to be frills and the side of the cake isn’t meant to be lumpy, I swear! I think the top surface is probably the best bit as I got a near smooth consistency there, so let’s just say that part is promising. If you read my last post, you'll already know my reason for attempting!

My hat goes off to the real cake makers and decorators out there who decorate cake every day! Just rolling that icing out without it sticking to your work-top is a challenge in itself! And then getting it over the cake so not only does it not tear but falls in the right place? – Don’t get me started!

Anyway, I cannot leave without showing you which stuff I chose to do the [bad] job… Renshaw Ready-to-Roll Icing was easy enough to use. Just a shame I have No skillZ in using the stuff! Yet.

7 Oct 2014

Nigella's Victoria Sponge

Nigella victoria spong

Nigella victoria sponge sandwich

It's my little one's Christening in a few weeks and I've been battling with the decision of whether to make the cake for the Christening or not. Part of me cannot be bothered with the added pressure that a cake for a celebration brings and the other side of me feels it will be an absolute sin to have a shop-bought sponge cake sitting on my table, to those who know I bake! What will the people say, when my apple-crumble fans or my cheesecake fans ask if I baked the cake and I say, 'no, Marks & Spencer did'. That's not going to help my street cred' now, is it. But on the other hand, I've got so much other stuff going on, do I really have the time? Not really.

You see, baking the cake is NOT the problem, it's the decoration! It's all that icing and fondant stuff! I've not done that stuff before! I see loads of people posting their cake decorating tutorials online, making it seem so simple, but I know I will find it a faff and just an extra step preventing you from eating the darn thing.

So you know what, I'm going to see how it goes. Take it a step at a time and if my practice runs go well, I will go ahead and make the Christening cake! Take baby steps! It's not like I'm a stranger to Victoria sponge – here's one I baked earlier.

10 Sep 2014

Kit : Essential Baking Tools

Essential baking tools, my top 7 kit | www.bakeandthecity.blogspot.co.uk
9" cake tin, hand mixer, grease proof, baking beans, wooden spoon

I have a small number of things that I really rely on nowadays for baking. A few items that find useful and I cannot compromise on. So, I thought I'd put them all together for you, seeing as some of you are still checking my first Kit post and we've come a little way since then.

1. I never realised how valuable my spring-form loose bottom cake tin would be. This particular size (22cm) can be translated over cakes and Cheesecakes alike leaving easy clean edges when presentation is the key.

2. Silicone Pastry/Basting Brush. I'm always using this, it gets a nice thin coat of oil/melted butter/sugar/chocolate/syrup/ you get the idea, over the surface. I find it easy to clean too, compared to a bristle brush version.

3. These are from my hand mixer. I was solely using a trusty wooden spoon for many years before converting to this. Biggest advantage: Time! Oh yes, it saves me loads and prevents a tired wrist from all that manual mixing  ;-)

4. Too many recipes called for greaseproof paper or parchment of some kind and me previously using tin foil as a substitute just wasn't cutting it. I was trying to be frugal by never buying it, but believe me, I'm loving the benefits (peels gracefully off the edges of cakey Brownies, easing Lemon Drizzle cake out of tight loaf tins, etc.) and I keep a roll in the drawer now.

5. Baking Beans. Needed for blind baking tarts/pie bottoms.

6. My Own Spoon. This spoon is a bit like Kryptonite to the other half, with its bright pink handle. He does not use it and that's perfect for me leaving it exclusive for my baking and not his oily culinary concoctions!

7. Now something a little bit unorthodox for a British kitchen – Cup size measures. I got these because they were so cheap to buy and allowed me to quickly use a US or Australian recipe without having to convert the ingredients on my iPhone App to metric scale. There are loads of US recipes I stumble on so it just makes sense to keep some of these handy! 

27 Aug 2014

Perfect Flapjacks /Oat Bars

Flapjacks Granola oat bar www.bakeandthecity.blogspot.co.uk

Here is a recipe I am going to file under 'instant gratification'!! With only five key ingredients this was in my belly after 55 minutes of me mixing the last ingredient. For me this will be a chewy flapjack recipe I will be using again and again. Adding the hazelnuts, ginger and lemon zest really sets this apart from your ordinary flapjack. And it's a great use of porridge oats! I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever had porridge oats for breakfast. I'm more of a cereal girl, like Cornflakes, Alpen, Shreddies, that type of stuff.

So here we are, Perfect Flapjacks!

12 Aug 2014

Great British Bake Off

I can't say that I watch a lot of telly, I'm usually one that tunes in to watch something specific and occasionally begins some sort of programme fetish. A few months ago it was The Good Wife, now its The Great British Bake Off on the BBC! The fifth Series has started and last week I tuned in to watch the first episode. Not only do I love to see the GBBO contestants' creations, but I get a buzz from learning the inside tips and tricks to get your cake right – "to prevent your cherries from falling to the bottom when making cherry cake, halve them, then dust them in flour before adding them to batter"  – brilliant!

Whilst watching #GBBO last week, I couldn't help notice that one of the contestants in particular is in need of a strong hairband. No names mentioned, but your strands of overhanging hair are distracting me from what you're baking, please tie all of that hair back properly before Mary Berry finds an extra ingredient in your cake!

30 Jul 2014

Brownies II (the one that was perfect)

best Brownies recipe from www.bakeandthecity.blogspot.co.uk

I just had to get these the way I wanted. So I found another recipe. I am pleased! This is the one. It tastes as if it could be shop bought and its got a slight crust surface on top and dense middle! For me, this is the perfect brownie! Some may prefer my previous one which was more 'cakey', but hey – some like Pepsi, some like Coke!

16 Jul 2014

Apple and Raspberry Hand Pies

apple hand pie

All good things come to those who wait... and I sure waited for these! Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I've recently had my wisdom tooth removed and it has prevented me from eating properly. Which is great if I wanted to shed a couple of pounds, but not when I've been all organised and had my ingredients waiting to bake these lovely hand pies. If you saw my last post, about getting an in-house recipe eater, I got these baked just in time for a visit from my other-half's cousin who happily polished off a few and took some home. He just thought he had good timing! But little did he know, I was waiting to be his feeder! (Enter evil laugh) Ha ha HaaH!

apple hand pie

25 Jun 2014

Martha Stewart Thin Pear Tart

Pear Tart

Hey there. Writing these posts have become somewhat of a little battle. Primarily because I tend to eat all of what I bake and that does no wonders for my waist-line, unless I have people round to share it. I have to sample my creations, of course – but I'm not really the type of person that can stop at just 'two' of those delicious Brownies or those cookies.

I exercise regularly and all, but what I really need is an in-house taster! Someone that can help me polish off the remaining slices or handful of biscuits! I currently don't have one of those, but I'm on the look out! In the meantime I just have to cleverly bake when I'm expecting friends or when the parents come round. I would love to hear from other food bloggers – How do you stop yourself from devouring all of what you bake?

28 May 2014


Brownies on board

Hello. I'm having a hard time deciding on a new design for this blog. I haven't posted in a while, naughty me, as I've been waiting to post to a brand new 'look'. But it hasn't happened. I have managed to do something though. Make Brownies? Yep.

I've eaten brownies before, but never actually made any. They seemed boring to me. I chose to bake some after tasting a batch made by a friend of a friend, who hardly ever bakes! Her's tasted so good (to the point I wondered if she'd bought them) that I thought, if a stranger-to-baking can produce brownies like those, then so can I! So. These were nice enough with a satisfying chocolate and cocoa hit. However, since delving into the world of brownies, I've discovered they seem to fall roughly into two types. The cake-type brownie or the fudge-type brownie. I found the texture of these to be more of the 'cakey' type than the 'fudgy' type. Neither is wrong or right – I just prefer the fudgy type with a slight crisp crust.
So, not bad, but I need to try again. Just for me  :-)

brownies www.bakeandthecity.blogspot.co.uk

27 Feb 2014

Cheesecake Brownie Bites

Cheesecake Brownie bites
When I began my baking journey, I would sometimes refer to Food Blogging for Dummies, written by Kelly Senyei. Being a Blogger herself, she also hosts a lovely blog, Just a Taste which I occasionally dip into for recipe inspiration and ideas. Here's one recipe that took my fancy and also went down a treat  :-)

(Being a US recipe, I used my iPhone app to convert the cup size measurements to English metric system on the day).

When I find a new favorite thing, I keep going back to it. New favourite shoes will get worn everyday; favourite nail polish, will g...

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