Friday, 28 May 2010

Arthur's Picnic in the Park

Last weekend we celebrated Arthur's 1st Birthday with a Picnic in the Park for close family and our Brighton & Hove friends. What was intended to be a small gathering ended up with over 40 people aged from under a year to over 70! We had the most beautiful day - it was so hot, so lucky we took a gazebo and plenty of sun lotion.

At Hove Park we scattered picnic rugs on the grass and treated our guests to a picnic of 'summer fayre'. I made an array of sandwiches including Salmon and Watercress Mayonnaise, Smashed Peas and Mint with Mozzarella & Vegi Sausage with Gherkins, Mustard and Crunchy Lettuce. I also made a giant English Salad and provided a simple Cheese Board with homemade Chutney.

Of course, no picnic is complete without cakes and sweet treats. So once the trays of sandwiches became just crumbs, out came the cakes. A classic Chocolate Birthday Cake as the centre-piece, an Orange & Almond Cake (a fab recipe from Rosie's Deli that I will make for life!), a Lemon-Ginger Cake drizzled with white chocolate and decorated with smashed crystallised violets, a Chocolate-Raspberry Cake, a Courgette Cake and a Trifle - Allotment Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger.

Needless to say, the cakes went down well. As with many hosting / catering situations it becomes a lot of work and the time passes like lightening. Hence I didn't have time to take any decent images - such a missed opportunity with all those cakes! I did however manage to take a snap shot of each before I cut into them, the results of which are attached.

All in all a lovely memorable day, exhausting but thoroughly worth it. Happy Birthday Arthur - love you loads!

Monday, 17 May 2010

A cake for Aunty Celia and her best friend Pat ...

As many regular readers will know, I love nothing better than an excuse to bake a cake. One such opportunity presented itself to me recently with a visit from Lily and Arthur’s Great Aunty Celia and her best friend Pat. These two lovely ladies adore Lily and Arthur and often make a trip down to the coast to see them, either with the WI [a slight detour when on the annual Brighton trip], or as on this occasion, they make their own way down from West London on the train. They always arrive, without fail, with [far too much] chocolate for the children, and I, without fail, bake a cake.

Now Great Aunty Celia is rather traditional in her ways when it comes to food. She won’t really dabble in anything from outside this islands shores – so you have to really think traditional English fare that hasn’t been tampered with in any way to give it a modern contemporary twist… so I accept that restraint is called for.

A classic recipe that ceases to fail is a must, something with an air of afternoon tea and village fetes perhaps? Then it just has to be a Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake. This is a recipe, I have made on so many occasions that I have lost count, is from the wonderful baking bible ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson. There is no excusing that it is a plain looking cake, but this buttery sponge, moist with citrus, just melts in your mouth …. heavenly!

I am pleased to report that both Great Aunty Celia and Pat gave the cake exceedingly good merit. From two life-long members of the WI, I’ll accept that as a shining complement!

Louise x

Serves 8 – 10

For the cake:

125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
450g loaf tin, buttered and lined

For the syrup:
juice of 1 and a half lemons [about 4 tbsps]
100g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/GM 4, and butter and line your loaf tin well.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar, and add the eggs and lemon zest, beating them in well.

3. Add the flour and salt, folding in gently but thoroughly, and then the milk.

4. Spoon into the prepared loaf tin and put in the oven. Bake for 45mins, or until golden, risen in the middle (although it will sink a little on cooling) and an inserted cake-tester comes out clean.

5. While the cake is cooking, get on with the syrup: put the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently so that the sugar dissolves.

6. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, puncture the top of the loaf all over with the cake tester or suitable implement. Pour over the syrup, trying to let the middle adsorb it as well as the sides, then leave it to soak up the rest. Don’t try and take the cake out of the tin until it is completely cold, as it will be sodden with syrup and might crumble.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A case of 'baking' nerves

I'm finding myself responding to cake orders more and more these days. Great, just what I always wanted .... but I never anticipated the nerves of 'getting it right' - living up to peoples expectations. Today, I finished a last minute order for my friend Nicola's mother's birthday this weekend. The final look wasn't what I originally set out for, but despite my reservations, Nicola loved it .... in fact so much so that she has asked me to make her cake for her forthcoming wedding this summer! Note to self: Need to work on those 'baking' nerves!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Listen, do you want to know a secret ....

If I could be anywhere this coming weekend it would be in Bath. Why you ask? Because the Secret Service Supper Club, will be there with their 'pop up' restaurant.

Yes, for this weekend only (May 8th/9th) the SSSC are taking residence in Bath for a Decadent High Tea and Lazy Spring Brunch. They'll be installed in a spectacular, historic building in central Bath, but exactly where, and what is going on in it, is their little secret. Those that book will find out 24 hours before (via email), the final secret will unveil when you arrive.

At high tea you will nibble on canapes and drink champagne cocktails. Your mouth will water as you cast your eyes along the banqueting table crammed full of dainty sandwiches and delightful tartlets. Your eyes will pop at sight of cake stands bursting with freshly baked scones and cream filled cakes.

At brunch you will drink champagne cocktails, no boring bucks fizz here, eat bagels stuffed with smoked salmon and capers, ciabatta topped with Parma ham and fig compote, home made maple and pecan granola, platters of local cheeses including an organic, unpasteurised double gloucester from the Wye Valley and plenty more.

All this will be served up on gorgeous vintage china from the lovely people at Lahloo tea will be providing an exciting range of teas, including a Pink Rose Bud tea which the SSSC anticipate going very well with the lavender scones. Lahloo's tea's ( are all loose leaf, fair trade, organic and from small producers.

Spring Brunch tickets for May 8th/9th @ 1030am, can be booked at:
Decadent High Tea Tickets for May 8th/9th @ 3.30pm can be booked at:

The SSSC are well known in Bristol for popping up in secret locations to give diners a unique, sociable and, most of all, delicious experience. As with all SSSC events, the focus is on locally sourced, seasonal and scrumptious food and creating a sociable, fun and unusual events, unlike anywhere else.

And remember.....Shhh! Dont tell anyone as its a secret!

Louise x