Happy Easter

Its been a while hasn’t it?

Gluten free Simnel Cake

And so a little update of the last couple of months.  Life at Cakes Towers continues, we are all still here, still alive and well and living the dream.

I may have mentioned taking a break from baking and recipe writing to try and write a book, well that is still on going. It’s no mean feat to create new recipes, write them all down, bake them and try and be creative with the photos, whilst still maintaining a full-time job, being a full-time dad and husband. Nonetheless I have written some recipes and taken some photos, the process while long, is rather fun. Trying to squeeze in time to bake cakes and bakes, in amongst the weekend taxi service and a wonderful job that takes we away across the country more often than not.

I would have it no other way.

The beginning of the year started with baking around 4 or 5 bakes a weekend and trying to photo them whilst there was still plenty of natural light. I quickly learnt that once the early winter nights had drawn in, the kitchen light was not a great replacement and neither was the use a flash or trying to set up a light studio with a standard lamp! And don’t get me started on overcast days! But I battled on and I am proud of the results; I still need a few ideas and so baking seems to have slowed down a bit this past month as I am in need of some cakespiration.

I have also taken on board the role of Group Organiser for our local Coeliac UK support group.  A role I felt I needed to take on, as otherwise the group would have folded. Something I felt I could do, there are so many people diagnosed with Coeliac Disease that seem to have little or no support once they are diagnosed, it was the least I could do. There is I feel, some way to go to make the group more supportive rather than just a couple of large meetings per year. But once we get this year out of the way, we (the grand ‘we’ of the committee) can start to plan something a little more supportive to those that need it.

And so a quick recipe to tie you over for the approaching  Easter Holidays.

pre heat the oven to gas 3, 150c, 140c fan and line the base of a loose based 20cm cake tin.

350g gluten free self raising flour

250g butter

1 teaspoon of mixed spice

100g caster sugar

80g light brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

400g dried fruit (washed glacé cherries halves, raisins, sultanas)

2 tablespoons Apricot Jam

300g ready to roll marzipan

Thought I would shake things up a bit and use the rubbed-in method for this one! I used a food processor to blitz the flour, spice and butter together to form the ‘breadcrumbs’. A couple of quick pulses and we are done, then add the sugars and blitz again to combine.

Take a hand full of the dried mix and sprinkle over the dried fruit and mix so that each piece of fruit is covered – this should help to keep the fruit suspended in the cake and it won’t sink.

Pour the dried flour/breadcrumb mix into a large enough mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, then pour in the eggs and using a spoon, combine the mix to form a sticky cake dough. Stir in the dried fruit to mix and ensure an even distribution.  There should be no need to over mix this, just enough to combine the ingredients.

Take half of the Marzipan and roll this out to form a disc the same size as the inside of the cake tin.

Tip half of the cake mix into the cake tin and smooth out, then place the Marzipan disc on top, then finish with the remaining cake batter, smooth the surface and place in the oven to bake for about 75 – 90 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool before removing the cake from the tin.

Brush the surface of the cake with the apricot jam.

Roll out the remaining Marzipan into a disc to cover the cake at around 3mm thick. Place on top of the apricot jam and smooth the surface.

If you want to create the traditional glaze, place the cake under a very hot grill and allow the heat to tinge the Marzipan – not burn it, so keep you eyes on it! You could use one of the many hand held cooks blow torches that are available.

Decorate as you see fit, I went a little left-field and just decorated with chocolate mini eggs…

Happy Easter to each and every one of you. 😀💐

 

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The next project….

So the next project has begun, hence the reason for the lack of posts and I make no apology for my absence.

It’s a process I need to go through and has been part of the long-term plan since the beginning, but the time has not felt right. Now I feel that I can share with you how things are going, or perhaps how it’s not going!

Writing a book! It’s something I never really thought I’d do, but since creating Cakes by Noah, it has been a shadow that has become and been given, more form.  I have spent the last 4 years creating recipes, having fun and meeting lots of wonderful people. Those people are still wonderful and have been incredibly supportive in ways perhaps they may not realise. There have been others too, that have been in the background pushing and pushing, but there are somethings things that just need to be discovered for yourself. You can lead a horse to water, etc. as they say.

Why a book? Why not! I’ve always strived to spread the word on gluten free baking, strived to help others to see how easy it is, how with a little application no one misses out, everyone can eat together. No one is left behind.  Now I have another platform on which to share my love, to share with the known world some back to basic recipes. Something for everyone.

Don’t be fooled, this is not an easy process! Despite having many recipes that work, many of which I have previously shared with you on here, I have always wondered if they could be better. And now I am able to carry out a bit more recipe development in order to create an even better recipe. So far I am only a fraction of the way through my list of bakes and I’m 4 sponge recipes in with only 1 good enough to use. And I’m sure there’ll be room for improvement in that one!

Light is another factor. At this time of the year, day light hours are at a premium and working full-time, means baking and photography has to happen at the weekends. So planning comes into force, a major force! It’s a good job, planning is one of my strengths! 😀

Do I have a publication date? Er no, not yet. It’s all being self funded, there is the small matter of the day job and Noah and his sister (and for that matter mum) are all still in the mix and if I’m honest, I don’t think I have a full list of what I’m baking; it seems to change weekly. Then there is the matter of putting it all together and actually writing some sort of prologue and odd ramblings to start it all off! But at least I’ve started.

‘Tis the season to be…….

I might not be able to take really good photos, but ‘by eck, do I make rather tasty bakes!

Gluten Free Chocolate Swiss Roll

The festive season is usually one for over indulgence, adding sweetness upon sweetness. You can take the humble mince pie and drown it in brownie, the humble Swiss roll and drown it in buttercream or ganache, a humble mince pie and drown it in alcohol. The list goes on, it seems Christmas is an excuse to over indulge?  But that’s ok, it’s just for a couple of days 😀😀

And this recipe goes only half way to indulgence 😀 Still indulgent and can still be made for a simple centrepiece for a gluten free Christmas table. And if you make this, no one – no one – will be able to tell the difference between this and a ‘normal’ cake. It’s so light and fluffy. Let’s not talk about the other Swiss roll I made, that cracked and fell apart….. 🙄 but did have green Christmas trees and red baubles on!

Preheat the oven to 180c fan, 200c, Gas 4 and line a Swiss roll tin (35cm x 25cm) with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

To make the swirls;

35g soft butter

35g icing sugar

1 egg white

30g gluten free plain flour

A simple cake mix, beat the butter and the icing sugar together until you have a soft paste, beat in the egg white; again until you have a soft paste, then mix in the gluten free flour until you have a combined mix, that will be easy to pipe.

Now I did this bit by free hand (I know, you can tell) place the cake paste into a piping bag with a writing nozzle and draw onto the greaseproof paper your pattern/s. There are plenty of templates on-line. You don’t need to cover the whole piece of paper as some of the pattern will sit underneath the Swiss roll when it has been rolled up.

Also, if you are going to write actual words, write them back to front. Otherwise when you  turn the Swiss roll over to roll once filled, the writing will be backwards.

Once you have piped your design, place in the freezer, for at least 10 minutes, whilst you make your Swiss roll.

3 large eggs

80 caster sugar

70g gluten free plain flour

20g cocoa (I use Food Thoughts Cocoa)

Using a stand mixer (I have a kitchen aid) whisk the eggs and the sugar for at least 5 minutes until you have trebled the volume of he mix and once you left out the whisk, it leaves a trail or ribbon.

Sift the cocoa with the gluten free flour together and then sift again onto the egg and sugar mix. Then using either a large metal spoon or plastic spatula gently fold in the flour mix.  Gently, so as to keep as much air in th mix as possible.

Once fully folded, take your tray out of the freezer (the pattern should have set) and carefully pour the Swiss roll mix over your pattern. Making sure the mix gets into each hole and crevice. Tap the tray gently and place into the oven on the bottom shelf, and bake for about 8 minutes.

Whilst baking – and this is going to get fiddly i’m afraid – get a sheet of greaseproof paper slightly larger than your Swiss roll, and place onto your kitchen table/surface and lightly sprinkle with caster sugar.

Now, once the Swiss roll is cooked, allow the tray to cool for about a minute to take some of the heat out of the tray, and the turn the tray upside down onto the sugared greaseproof to turn the cake out.  Gently peel off the greaseproof from the cooked cake, place another clean sheet of greaseproof back on top and turn over again! This way the pattern should be on the side of the kitchen surface? Using a sharp knife make a cut along the long length of the cake, only about half way down into the cake. This will help rolling up. Then roll up the Swiss roll with the greaseproof inside and allow to th cake to fully cool.

By cooling the Swiss roll rolled up, it will be easier to roll once filled. It will be stretched enough and shouldn’t crack!

For the filling;

200g of jam/preserve – I used Single Variety Company – Maravilla Raspberry Preserve. Because they were lovely and sent me a jar or 2 to play with 😀😀

200g Nutella (or similar chocolate and hazelnut spread) – gently warmed to make it easy to spread.

Unroll the Swiss roll. It will have cooled enough for you to use by the time you have weighed out the filling ingredients. Then spread on the jam/preserve and then cover with the warmed chocolate spread. Then roll back up, the Swiss roll. Trying to get in tightly rolled to get that all important ‘swirl’, and taking care to keep the filling in!

Place onto your cake dish and serve.

It should keep well (and covered) for at least 2 days.  If it lasts that long!

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season….

It is indeed the season to be joyful.

Gluten free Mince Pies

And there is no excuse required in this house, to eat and enjoy a gluten free mince pie. All the more when the pastry is a little thicker than normal and a little extra rich! For me, this newer gluten free recipe for pastry has a little extra melt-in-the-mouth experience and, and if you have some added festive spirit to hand, add this to your sweet Mincemeat for that added touch of indulgence. It’s Christmas after all, although I don’t need an excuse to eat mince pies any time of the year 😀😀😀

Yes, you can buy gluten free mince pies in the shops, yes the gluten free range is increasing, there is though, nothing like baking your own. It takes no more time to make or bake gluten free versus ‘normal’ and I’ll be honest, these taste great! So, go on, give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen??? 😀😀

Preheat your oven to gas 5, 200c fan, 215c

Have to hand you pastry topper cutter to hand (I used a Tala Christmas Tree one), an 8cm round cutter for the base and a deep 12 hole tray (used twice). This recipe makes about 18 mince pies.

70g ground almonds

310g gluten free plain flour

1 level teaspoon of xanthum gum

100g caster sugar

280g diced butter

2 eggs

540g gluten free Mincemeat

Alcoholic beverage of choice. Optional of course, but I’ve used Calvados, brandy and amaretto to make these mince pies.

Using a food processor, blend the ground almonds, gluten free plain flour, xanthum gum and sugar together for about 30 seconds until fully combined. Alternatively sieve the ingredients together over a bowl to mix them all together.

Then add the diced butter to the processor and blend on pulse until you have a mix that resembles fine breadcrumbs. No more than a minute. Alternatively rub the butter into the dry mix with your fingertips to reach the same state.

Crack the 2 eggs into a cup and lightly whisk with a fork.

Pour roughly 1.5 (save the other half as egg wash for the finished pie) of the egg mix into the flour and butter mix and blend together in the processor for about 20 seconds and then tip out on to the table top and bring together to form a dough. Or likewise, pour the egg mix into your bowl, if making by hand and again bring together to form a dough.

Let this dough rest a little in the fridge, wrapped in cling film, to firm the butter up, if nothing else. Otherwise the dough can get a little greasy.

Once the dough has rested for about 15 minutes, take it out of the fridge and unwrap it from the film. Place it on a lightly floured surface and roll out the dough to about 4mm in thickness.

You may need to gather and reform the dough and roll out again to get the right amount of bases and tops.

Cut out 18 rounds for the base and 18 toppers. Brush the inside of each pastry round with some of the remaining beaten egg.

Place the bases in the cake tray, pop in about 30g of Mincemeat into each base and splash on about a tablespoon or 2 of optional alcoholic spirits….. top with your pastry topper of choice, brush this with egg wash and place into the oven to bake for around 15 – 20 minutes or until lightly bronzed.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool, before removing from the tray and sprinkling with icing sugar and serving. If you need to bake the remaining batch of mince pies, repeat – and line, brush, fill, splash, top, brush and bake…..

Once fully cooled, these can be placed in a tub, placed into the freezer and kept for no more than a month. So if you need to bake ahead, now is the time.

Can be served warm with your favourite – brandy butter, brandy custard, or just warm and on their own.

 

Gluten Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Thought I’d put a gluten free recipe together for a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. As I’ve seen a few doing the rounds recently, so not one to hop on the band wagon, but I do like to make sure everyone can have the option of having their own slice 😀

Gluten free Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I am also going to scale down the posts and recipe creating in the New Year as I’d like to start work on a new project. The project might take a little more time than I imagine and something so will have to give. Not that I will forget to keep you updated and I will of course put the word out, so to speak, on the comings and going at Cake Towers, plus if I discover a juicy new recipe I’ll naturally let you know. For now though, thank you for all of your support, likes and the odd comment, it’s been a ride. The next page needs writing though and I have no idea where the journey will go. If you do need a recipe though in the meantime, please contact me via the details on the ‘About…’ page.

Enough already, there’s some sand in my eye. Here’s a rather moist and smoooth recipe to keep you going and one you’ll definitely need custard with 😀😀

Preheat the oven to Gas 3, 150c fan, 165c and line the base of a deep, loose bottomed, 8” cake tin with a slip of greaseproof paper.

8 slices of tinned pineapple

Cocktail/glacé Cherries

200g caster sugar

240g soft butter

160g gluten free self raising flour

50g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 medium eggs

100ml milk

30ml cocktail cherry juice (if using)

1 teaspoon almond essence

Open the tin(s) of sliced pineapple, drain off the juice and dab-dry the Pineapple slices on some kitchen paper. Line the base of the baking tin with the pineapple slices (you may get to eat one slice…….) and place the cocktail/glacé cherries in the middle of the pineapple slices and fill any remaining gaps with them also. Put to one side whilst you prepare the cake batter.

In a separate bowl sift the gluten free flour, ground almonds and baking powder.

Beat the sugar and the soft butter in another bowl with an electric whisk or table top mixer, until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of gluten free flour mix. Once the eggs are all mixed in, beat in the milk and cherry juice (if using) and almond essence. It will look a little split, but will come together once cooked.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and pop in the oven and bake for 55 – 60 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Once cooked,  remove from the oven to cool a little. If using straight away you’ll definitely need to leave it to cool before, placing a large enough plate/serving dish over the cake tin and turning it over – for you Upside Down Cake!

Serve with custard (because there really is no other option 😀😀😀 )

If you are serving this much later, or the next day, cover until required. To warm through, just place back into a warm over for about 15 minutes, you may also want to cover the cake with some additional greaseproof to stop it catching and drying out. And still serve it with custard!

 

 

Our Legoland Adventure

We waited all year for this trip 😀😀 A half term and wedding anniversary trip, plus we went the whole hog and booked the night away in the Legoland Resort Hotel as well.  It seemed a bit silly to go all that way down and back in a day. Besides, day 2 was going to be free anyway if we booked the hotel.

We tried to keep it a secret from the kids for as long as possible.  That only lasted about 4 months, as, when we swopped the phones around we left the diary date in one of the phones, only for child 1 to discover the date. She did well not spilling the beans, despite us saying it was only a provisional date anyway.

Now being the organiser that I am, I asked prior to the trip what availability Legoland had in the way of gluten free options and I have to say that the response was pretty quick. A link was provided for us to search through and boy did we search…….long and hard.  We took some supplies just in case.

On arrival on the morning of day 1 we were greeted by the lovely hotel reception team, very helpful and very patient for a bunch of rather giddy day trippers from the North! We just wanted to get into the Park! After a moment of planning failure (I forgot to pick up the printed tickets🙄) we quickly recovered by showing the eVersion of the tickets and we entered the Park.

It has to be said that the staff were very polite and generally service was good. You could almost forgive them a little as they must be coming to the end of the season and whilst it was half term for us, there were probably more kids off the previous week for the bulk of the half terms from across the country. There were about 5 rides closed – that we weren’t made aware of and there were several kiosks closed due to the low numbers. As a consequence the ques for those kiosks that were open, were long and frustratingly slow. 20 minutes for a vending machine coffee at a little under £3 was not great value for money.

And then there’s the food.

Now having a child with coeliac disease has its problems as you may be aware. None more so than trying to find out what is on the menu and what the child can and can’t eat. It’s mostly an arduous task, Legoland could do worse than putting themselves in our or anyone else’s shoes with an allergy/intolerance/Coeliac disease. It could help to make it a little easier.

We could find no kiosks in the Park that provided gluten free foods that we could safely say we could eat in. Not even pre-packaged goods. Nothing in the burger kiosks, the chicken kiosk, the pizza or pasta restaurant except for a gluten free pizza base (what about the sauce and toppings?) Don’t get me wrong, there are posters on the walls showing all the allergen information, nothing that would mean he could be included with the rest of us. We did take a chance with a portion of chips from the Fish and Chip Shop…. no adverse effects. But at £4 odd, we shared the portion!

Dinner was an altogether different experience. Again the staff were very helpful – when they could eventually find the allergen data sheets. Which I have to say are on pre printed FSA sheets, not even the decency to create their own! It didn’t really fill me with confidence. I read said data sheets, for both hotel outlets ‘The Tavern’ an a la carte type affair (rather pricey) and ‘Bricks’ a buffet style restaurant in the other hotel. Yes a buffet…… the horror of a buffet for anyone with a food intolerance/allergy/coeliac disease would send a shiver down the spine. Cross contamination issues abound…..An hour before dinner service, the team were unable to tell me what was on for dinner, but I was given the allergy data sheets anyway.

Needless to say, we went out into Eton for dinner and had a lovely meal. Where we were positively welcomed, served and Noah could eat almost anything on the menu without fear of being ill.

Now breakfast was not much different. A buffet breakfast (shivers again)….. Now I know, serving 400 people food in a short period of time is not easy and a buffet is perhaps the easiest solution. And the team, were again, very polite but we got the impression that Legoland just aren’t geared up for intolerances/allergies/coeliac disease. Yes Schar breakfast cereal was available and that was about all. Well. We did get 3, yes 3, prepackaged chocolate chip muffins and they were huge! Not the best start to a day! There are such things as gluten free sausages and fruit is not a pudding

But it was just disappointing and as I’ve said before, a little boy of 8 just wants to fit in and as a family we want meal times to be an inclusive affair, not a ‘look at what you could be eating’ affair. We’d rather go without or go elsewhere.

 

Beware the gluten free complacency

And so the fun time of year comes around yet again 😀😀

I do love a bit of spooky and ghoulish behaviour, being scared out of my wits and dressing up, smothered in face paint. There’s nothing like it 😀😀

Let the imagination run wild, how far you go depends on how far you DARE go! And it’s much the same with cake. Last year was a gluten free chocolate cake, covered in white ‘bandages’, eyes and with a red coloured orange curd for blood. That, once cut, oooozed out. Such fun!

This year 2 cakes for you, one entitled ‘Scratch’ and the other, designed by Noah’s sister, ‘Bleeding Eyes’. Both are based around a simple gluten free Victoria sponge recipe  (the link will take you to one of my recipes – just omit the colour and you’ll just need vanilla flavouring/extract) and both are coloured differently inside. But you can do as you please.

‘Scratch’ is coloured purple with green buttercream’ whilst ‘Bleeding Eyes’ is coloured black and purple and layered with strawberry jam. In both cases the ‘blood’ is a paste made with red food colouring, honey, water and cornflour.

Gluten free bleeding eyes Halloween cake

Of course it’s not all about cake and we must always be vigilant for the  ever-present gluten! Whilst these fun and themed times of the year bring us holiday fun, we also need to ensure we are on the look out, on the back of the food packets with all the new foods that become available. Enticing us with something new each year, we need to ensure we are reading the ingredient lists on the back. Even if we have had the product before, it’s always worth looking again as the product may have had an ingredient change that we weren’t aware of. Take nothing for granted and if you really want an extra check, click the Coeliac UK website for updated product news.

Although as we have recently found out, despite something years of vigilance, complacency does creep in and we do make mistakes. We are only human. Without naming the product we had over looked the dreaded ‘barley malt extra’!! Now we have no idea what effect it might have, but we’d rather not find out. So after sharing out the contents of said products, I noticed a rather familiar taste, that sent a little alarm bell ringing. It was a rather ‘cereal’ based flavour that made me look again at the ingredient list – ‘Barley Malt Extract’!!!! The packet disappeared, Noah spat out the sweet, but it left a rather upset Noah, and the every present cry of, ‘I just want to eat normal free’.  It breaks our hearts. Normally we are able to control what Noah eats at the moment and wouldn’t normally let barley malt extract through the right security measures, we have no idea on its impact. I’m sure there will come a time again when out guard is down, or he gets that little bit older……we learn from our mistakes I suppose.