There is always hope (and cake)

As I sit and write, the sun is shining and the birds and the bees are flying around the garden.

Did we ever think we would get here? Possibly not. Yes, there were shared hopes and dreams, it’s what brings people together, it’s what makes friends. But actually being here now, in this moment? Do those hopes and dreams, without actually planning anything, shape your future? By seeing a ‘hope’ or a ‘dream’, an outcome to your life in the future, are you sub-consciously following a path you don’t know you are following? Is that destiny? Or have we programmed ourselves to seek that path that leads us inadvertently to where we want to be?

Clearly there are those that plan, that decide where they want to be and that defines them. But at what cost? There are those that can afford to get what they want (where’s the fun in that 😀?) and indeed do. Surely sub-consciously is more fun? Too many questions, too many barriers, ups and downs, too a hope/dream that is sub-consciously led. There are of course many studies into mindfulness, well-being and NLP that go into far more detail. To quote a Talking Heads song lyric (from the track ‘Once in a Lifetime’) – ‘How did I get here?’ I really don’t know. But does it really matter, I’m here now so what’s next!

Some cake,  from which came from somewhere…..

To be made in 2 stages… a brownie base and a hazelnut meringue.

Start either way around, I made the brownie first.

Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 160c fan and line and grease a round 8”, deep cake tin.

300g milk chocolate (I use Callebaut)

180g butter

230g caster  sugar

3 large

1 teaspoon vanilla

100g gluten free plain flour

1 jar of hazelnut chocolate spread

Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, and the butter together in a glass bowl, over a saucepan of gently simmering hot water. Ensuring no water gets into the bowl. Once melted set aside to cool a little before adding the sugar and then beating in the eggs – one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and then fold in the flour. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Leave to cool before popping in the fridge to set firm and then remove from the tin, but not before it has set firm. Trim any rough edges if required.

To make the hazelnut meringue – grease and line a 8” cake tin and preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 165c fan.

2 egg whites

130g caster  sugar

1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

75g roasted ground almonds. If you can only get whole nuts – place them on a tray and put into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and blend/blitz using a food processor.

Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy and then whisk in the caster sugar  and tablespoon at a time. Ensuring you whisk well between each addition of the sugar. It will become a rich shiny white once all the sugar has been added. Whisk in the wine vinegar and then fold in the ground hazelnuts. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool, then carefully remove from the tin.

To assemble, place the brownie onto your cake stand, spread with chocolate hazelnut spread, you could leave some to drizzle over the finished cake if you wish and top with the hazelnut meringue.

Slice and serve with all your hopes and dreams.

Happy Fathers Day.



Holiday Time! With Gluten Free Brownie-in-a-mug

It has been holiday time at Cake Towers this week.

We are lucky enough that Noah’s school has a 2 week break at this time of year, which enables us to have slightly cheaper options when it comes to picking a holiday destination.

So yet again we headed off to Center Parcs, our 4th visit to Whinfell Forest up near Penrith. A favourite? Possibly. It’s certainly closer than the others and the central leisure complex is covered which helps when its raining…..something that probably happens more often than not up in the Lakes! I guess it’s just more convenient than driving to Longleat, Sherwood or Elveden Forests. We’ll probably try Woburn when the trees have grown a bit.

As we have previously done, some activities have been pre-booked – Laser Clay, Aqua-fit, Aerial Tree Trekking and Mini Crossbow and our first nights meal. The rest of the time we just leave for ‘going with the flow’. Its our time. A time to get back together, to reflect, to remember who we are and to spend quality time with each other. And as we did last year in Elveden Forest, we took the 7 day break.  It generally takes us a couple of days to wind down and grow accustomed to each other, after that we can start to enjoy the holiday. So a busy weekend ensued before we headed into the week.

Food and dining out is always a problem. There are always some inconsistencies. A ‘Gluten-sensitive’ menu, is not gluten free. But it’s not fair on Noah if we don’t get to eat out. He doesn’t otherwise get to experience a restaurant. But he does end up eating the same foods for children….chicken, chips and peas/sweetcorn.  But we do take some risk with this and we do put Noah at the mercy of the particular outlet. The outlet, the training of the staff and the dynamics of the kitchen, its layout and the diversity of where the different foods are cooked and presented. It is a nightmare trying to make that decision. It’s also not fair on the rest of the family as it otherwise means we miss out too. The Café Rouge experience on our first night was laughable. After having explained Noah’s intolerance, we were still served the Children’s menu starter of breads and veg sticks. ‘You’ve paid for it so I thought you might as well have it…’ good thinking yes, but take the bread off!!

So we ended up eating in a lot.

Noah 1

Which as it turned out wasn’t of course difficult. Eating freshly made food always helps and there is a good selection of gluten free foods in the ‘Parc Market’ Although priced slightly higher than your average supermarket or corner shop, there is a wide enough variety of foods to get you through your break.

And it seems there is always something new to find in the gluten free aisle! And this lucky find went down a right treat – made by the lovely people at Bakedin, a monthly baking kit delivered to your door with recipes endorsed by one Michel Roux! (I met him once) link here –



Obviously they are also available in selected outlets. But it’s not often we find something good in the gluten free aisle and so we snapped these up sharpish!

Bakedin Gluten Free Brownie in a mug

They are sooo easy to make and a little robust in the methodology…they would have to be for a holiday destination, as finding the right ingredients and having them to hand can be tricky. But we managed to make it work with Lurpack ‘Slightly Salted’ and with semi skimmed milk.

The pack contains 4 sachets of the brownie mix, a sachet of mini marshmallows and instructions. Sadly you can only make 1 sachet at a time, but by the time they are all ready, they should be cold enough to eat..

You take your mug and melt some butter (or alternative) in the microwave, remove and stir in the sachet and then stir in 2 (I used 4 as I’m not always good with instructions 😀) tablespoons of milk. Then depending on microwave wattage cook on full for 1 minute. And then wait……its blinking hot at this point so wait for it to cool. They recommend 5 minutes, which if you sprinkle on some of the mini marshmallows, they’ll melt nicely 😋😋😋. Or you could add ice cream, but there’s not much freezer space in the Center Parcs accommodation. Point worthy of note….use a small mug, otherwise it appears a small portion. But you can only use what you have to hand.

Bakedin Brownie Gluten free

And then we certainly enjoyed them.. But now I  need to make my own ‘cake-in-a-mug’….so watch this space 😄

After that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the highlight of the week, but as ever for us it’s the wildlife. There is an abundance of pigeons and rabbits of course, but we saw woodpeckers, pheasants, a baby red deer and one fantastic moment when we saw a stoat! It was hiding from a rabbit, but the rabbit was having none of it. Don’t know what the stoat had done, but the bunny was not best pleased! We made plenty of time for swimming, as the weather was, for the first time for years, fantastic, we were very lucky. We even took the opportunity to try to get Noah and his sister to try to ride bikes without stabilisers.  We almost got there…

And home we came. A well-earned break before it starts all over again and we try to sort out where we go next. It might involve a plane, it probably won’t involve a trip to a lodge. At least for a few years as its time for something different 😊😉


Double Alchemy Gluten Free Caramel Oaty Slice Recipe

Double Alchemy you say? Well yes. I was a little fortunate to win some gluten free goodies in a recent competition run by Delicious Alchemy. So I have to say this recipe cost me nothing, but by using the 2 mixes we got 2 cakes! And one was a pleasant surprise 🙂 I won the Gluten Free products that they sell, on-line and a few of their products appear in supermarkets. Contact them, to find out more

Gluten free Caramel Oat Cake

Prices for the Vanilla Sponge mix  c£2.99, the Oaty Biscuit mix c£1.99 and a the lovely Brownie mix c2.99 – and no, I don’t work for them, but the mixes do come in very handy and are very easy to make.

For this little mash-up of double alchemy I used the Oaty Mix and the Vanilla Sponge Mix – both Gluten Free. I have also used the gluten free brownie mix and mixed it with some freeze-dried strawberries

The packet instructions for the Sponge Mix also say dairy free – BUT – I mixed in some milk instead of water #avant-garde ! 😉

Pre heat the oven to 180c/Gas 4 and line a 7″ round cake tin (or 6 cupcakes) and line a small brownie tray – roughly 27cm x 20cm.

First, mix the Gluten Free Oaty Mix as per the packet instructions – tip the contents of the Oaty mix into a bowl and stir in 75g of melted butter (or dairy free equivalent) and 30ml of water (cold), until combined. Its smells like flapjack and is divine. Leave to one side as you make the Gluten Free Vanilla Sponge Mix.


Gluten free Caramel Oat Cake

Then tip the contents of the vanilla sponge mix into a mixing bowl and mix as per the instructions. I used my lovely Kitchen Aid – with whisk attachment! Add in 3 large eggs, 180g of very soft butter (or dairy free equivalent) – bring to room temperature, or pop in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time and 20ml of milk (or water). Whisk quickly for a few seconds, scrape the bowl and whisk again for a few short seconds more. The object being, don’t over whisk.

Take the sponge mix and divide into two. Put one half into the lined, round cake tin and bake – again as per the instructions – approx. 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. You could of course use this mix to make roughly 6 cupcakes. The choice is yours :). Once cooled, I then cut this through the middle and filled with just homemade raspberry jam. Simples. A very thin…Gluten Free Victoria Sponge.

Secondly take the remaining gluten free sponge mix and ‘mix’ with the Oaty mix. But don’t try to hard to mix, merely bring the two mixes together. Put into the lined tray, push out gently into the sides of the tray and bake – same temperature and for approx. 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the tray – and make the Caramel Sauce!!

Boil up in a pan – 150ml Double Cream, 75g Butter, 75g Dark Brown Sugar – this should take about 3 – 4 minutes – melting the butter and the sugar. Pour over the freshly baked Oaty slice and leave to cool. That is, if you wish to eat this cold – OR – you could eat this straight away and serve with custard, cream or crème fraiche!

And if you are feeling extra generous, I have been shortlisted in a national Free From competition. Run by there are various categories to vote for and in, all supplying and doing the good stuff in the Free From world. I have been shortlisted in the category for ‘Best Free From Blogger’ 2014. Feel free to follow the link and vote. All votes have the chance to win a prize 😋😋😋😊 Much appreciated. Voting closes around October 25th 2015.