About my baking challenge

I discovered the joy of baking for the first time ever in 2013, shortly after my dear mum passed away from cancer. During 2014 I tried to bring these two things together in a positive way , have fun and raise some money for Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield where my mum passed away. Throughout the year I tried out new techniques and recipes from time to time ... and then sold some of my bakes for charity in my workplace. Since then I have continued to bake with some ups and downs .. and this blog charts my baking experiences, good and bad!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Charity Cake Sale

I started the year with the intention of holding occasional sales of single cakes at work to give me the incentive to bake new things and raise money for my mum's charity at the same time. Things started well back in January, but from March onwards I got  embroiled in a very demanding project at work with long working hours, so thinks have kinda fallen by the wayside!

A few of my lovely colleagues had mentioned that they missed my cakes, so I decided to make up for lost time by having a proper cake sale  before the end of the year ... and this week was the ideal opportunity before everyone gets into the Christmas festivities and can't face any more eating :-) So I took two days' leave from work to bake, and held a pre-Christmas Cake cake sale across two floors in my office at Warrington Borough Council on Thursday.

Treats on offer included a mixture of previously baked cakes and new recipes, promoted as follows:

Santa's Tipple
(Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys cream cheese frosting)

Tropical Christmas
(Passionfruit and White Chocolate sponge)

Terry's Chocolate Orange Cake

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Lemon Drizzle Traybake

Christmas Sparkle Cupcakes
(vanilla cupcakes with raspberry filling, pink vanilla buttercream and sparkle lustre)

Oops no picture!!

I sent an email around to my colleagues on several floors in the office, but I was a bit apprehensive as to whether the sale would be a success. I was absolutely amazed though ... I got stuck in traffic so only arrived to set up just before the advertised start time, and people were already waiting!! 

You may notice that there are no photos of the actual charity sale table, as my brilliant colleagues were so eager to sample the cakes that the table was surrounded straight away, and I never got chance to take any pics!! In fact I never even got a pic of my iced Guinness cake as I iced it from a chilled container immediately before putting on the table, and it was soon gone!

I could never have anticipated such success - everything was gone in just over an hour, raising a grand total of


I rounded this up to £110 (+£27.50 gift aid) to give a grand total of


So a big thanks to all my colleagues at Warrington Borough Council for making it such a success, and for the kind comments I received about the cakes - they seemed particularly to enjoy the Terry's chocolate orange cake!!

It was quite hard work, and I don't think I've ever done so much washing up in my life, but it was really worth it. My dad was really proud when I told him how much I had raised for the hospice where mum passed away, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Back soon with one or two of the recipes ...


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Winter warmer - gingerbread & Guinness bundt with salted caramel drizzle

Hi everyone,
With the falling of the leaves and bonfire night upon us, my thoughts turned to warming winter cakes ... and I saw a fabulous recipe on Kat's  Baking Explorer blog for a "Bonfire Cake"  - gingerbread and Guinness bundt cake with salted caramel icing, loosely adapted from Chow.

I'd never made gingerbread cake or caramel icing before, nor indeed any recipe involving dark brown sugar and treacle ... so I felt inspired to give it a go and take it to work for my colleagues. I was a bit late for bonfire night, but took it into work a few days later .... only just got round to writing it up now! I kind of did a hybrid, with Kat's cake but with a more drizzly icing as per Chow.

Gingerbread & Guinness Bundt with Salted Caramel Drizzle Icing

Taken from The Baking Explorer and Chow

For the cake:
255g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
165g dark brown sugar
170ml vegetable oil
3 large eggs, beaten
340g black treacle
250ml Guinness

For the salted caramel drizzle:
57g butter
165g dark brown sugar
175ml double cream
2t sp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Bundt tin - I used my Lakeland fluted cake ring tin.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas mark 4.
2. Grease and flour your tin, or (as I did) brush with Cake Release.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the Guinness, treacle, dark brown sugar, vegetable oil and eggs.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt - add to the wet ingredients and beat together until combined (don't overmix).
5. Pour mixture into the prepared tin until level, and bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

7. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Make the salted caramel by melting the butter in a pan, then add the sugar and cream - keep stirring and let the sauce bubble for about 5 minutes. Then add the vanilla extract and salt. Pour into a heatproof bowl (or even better a jug) to cool.

9. When the icing and cake are both cool, pour the icing over the cake so it drizzles down the sides.

 This cake was very easy to make, made the house smell great, and looked good when it was done. The cake was also very soft and moist, and a beautiful colour. However I would have to be honest and say I found the flavour of it to be very strong and quite bitter due to the amount of treacle used, and some of my colleagues said the same... in fact my husband commented that whilst the cake had obviously turned out as it should, he didn't really like it. The biggest fans were those colleagues who are die hard gingerbread fans - clearly it's a matter of personal taste.

These reactions led me to do a bit of googling, and I found that this particular recipe was very heavy on the dark treacle compared to many ... never having used treacle in a recipe before I didn't really know what to expect!! However I didn't feel downhearted - the cake did turn out right in terms of the recipe, and it gave me a few learning points about how to use ingredients ... so next time I may try a gingerbread cake with a mixture of treacle and golden syrup, or perhaps light brown sugar ... here's to the next experiment!!

I would like to enter this effort into a few baking challenges, namely:

November's Teatime Treats hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender and Lovage - Bonfire Night

Lavender and Lovage Tea Time Treats

November's Love Cake challenge - In With A Bang!

Love Cake logo

November's Baking With Spirit at Cake of the Week - Warming

That's all for today - 'til next time.