You know i love to partner with other small local businesses... Well, Here's what I've been cooking up over the festive break!
Sweetly Special Breakfasts is a small Bristol business, run by a lovely lady called Lilly. She delivers delicious breakfasts to people all over the city, focussing heavily on sweet treats to start special days off with a good feeding. That's where I come in!
Lilly firmly believes (and I agree!) that special days like Mothering Sunday or birthdays should be memorable from start to finish. Hampers from Sweetly start the day off perfectly, and keep you going throughout the day, enough goodies for lunch, elevenses, afternoon tea, supper... The delivery includes fresh flowers, balloons, tea and coffee, a personal card and of course, cakes. And if you're vegan, your home baked cake comes from me at 280 Bakes! If you're ordering for a child, the package also includes a party bag.
The main product I am helping Lilly (see her sunny face below) with is the Perfect Gift Breakfast - see above to the left - and is now available!
Check out Sweetly on Facebook and find them also on Instagram. Marballoons, a balloon artist in Bristol, also work with Sweetly, so it's a real team effort!
Support local business and why not shop with Sweetly next time it's a special day in your household - it'll be like sending a hug to your favourite person!
Baking gifts few and far between this Christmas - I must be close to having everything! My mum and El Husbandio did come through for me though...
Both baby and I love my new silicone baking sheets! I have been too tight to buy them myself so I was dead chuffed to receive these - even though I spotted them come through the post, oops!
And my mum knows I love a silicone spatula. This one is a super cute stocking filler with a robin design. Plastic isn't always bad, these presents will get a lot of use!
I'm so thankful we managed to have a (different, quieter but) lovely Christmas this year, with all that's going on. We are very lucky to have my brother in Bristol too, and him and his girlfriend cooked up a feast for us. Thank you E & K!
I hope your Christmas Day was just as lovely and my customers enjoyed their cakes!
My family have never bought a Christmas cake from a supermarket, and here's why.
The downsides to store-bought cake are many; I avoid the standard cakes bought from a supermarket when they appear at work, preferring a home baked delight. They just don't taste like real food to me; sugary chemically mess. Yuck. Call me a cake snob, but there are reasons I feel this way...
The problems with store-bought cakes are even more numerous when it's Christmas cake we're talking about.
Growing up, my mum always, without fail, made a Christmas cake for us from scratch. We were very lucky kids, and I've carried on the tradition with my little family. I know my sister does the same, and my brother will probably have one from his baking-crazy girlfriend. What lucky tummies and tummies of significant others!
Here are just a few reasons why I prefer home baked Christmas cake and would NEVER buy one from a store. Obviously I want to encourage you to buy home baked - from me! - but not just for Christmas, for all occasions in the year.
WHY I NEVER BUY A STORE'S CHRISTMAS CAKE
1. One of my closest friends is vegan and vegan Christmas cakes are nigh on impossible to find in a supermarket, even though general vegan food ranges are expanding. The star cake above is actually vegan, and you'd never know...
2. Supermarket cakes often contain white sugar. Christmas cake should always be made with soft, brown sugar! The flavour and texture is totally different, and shouldn't be compromised!
3. You never know what's gone into a cake which has been mass produced; E numbers (colours and flavours), preservatives, dates (ick!), whole nuts (choking hazard for my baby)… At least with mine I know exactly what ingredients were used - including a good splosh of booze! - and that it's been made hygienically!
4. When it's home made, a Christmas (or any other) cake can be tailored to your preferences or needs. You know now I hate dates, but you could say to me, for example, you'd like a holly design, or a star featuring on your festive bake. Don't like marzipan? I can leave out the marzipan, no problem. Perhaps you'd like it gluten free? I'd be only too happy to help.
5. A home baked cake is a much better gift than something you just grabbed off the shelves. It's made with love, with a specific person in mind, and if you buy from 280 Bakes, you're supporting a small business.
What could be better???
Order your Christmas cake today - orders close in a week (20th December)!
Sometimes I'm asked about flour - mainly why there are so many types... Someone asked me last week if you can bake cakes with plain flour...
Yes you can!
Self raising flour is basically plain flour (also called all-purpose flour) with a raising agent added. My good friend in Switzerland (let's call her Ernie!) tells me you can't even buy self raising flour in the supermarkets over there. Ernie needs to add her own ingredients to make the cakes rise - mainly baking powder.
I also have a theory that plain flour is often used in 'heavy cakes' like Christmas cake as the pure volume of dried fruit in them won't allow the cake to rise much anyway. Does anyone know if this is right?
**UPDATE** The Nigella Lawson website (yay Nigella!) says this: Nigella's Christmas cakes use plain flour rather than self-raising flour. This is partly as the amount of leavening needed for a rich fruit cake is different to that needed for a sponge cake and so the recipe needs a specific amount added separately. Ah ha, there we go!
I guess having a potential for no need for self raising flour is good news for some bakers - self raising flour remains my preferred choice of flour for cakes, but it may give you a little more space in your cupboard if you want to just stock plain flour. It's not just for cookies and shortbread!
Check out the BBC website for some great plain flour cake ideas - they are a real treasure trove of recipes.
I've upgraded my letterbox cake service!
Originally I was sending you and a friend a slice of cake and leaving the whole tea making process to you - along with the Zoom call arrangements! However, now I am throwing in a tea bag for you each too. It's only a small change, but it makes so much sense!
The packages are sent first class, anywhere in the UK. So if you're a fan of 280 Bakes but perhaps you've moved from Bristol, or miss the cake from when I covered a larger area, you can get involved too!
Eat cake, drink tea... together!
Take a look at some of the cakes I've baked and delivered this month!
Upside Down Pineapple Cake for a lady who wanted to surprise her mum... A birthday cake for Van, from her Auntie.... An enormous Victoria Sponge with petal decorations...
A cranberry Red Velvet cake (my first)... Snickers cupcakes for a family in Seamills… A normal sized Victoria Sponge...
… and many more!
See you in December!
Christmas may look a little different to normal this year, but that won't stop the festive baking!
Christmas cake is my favourite cake, Yule Logs are scrummy, Christmas cookies are so varied and fun... I just love festive baking! And this year I am going to make a pledge...
I'm ONLY going to bake festive bakes for my family friends from now until Christmas!
I've made family and friends many, many mince pies, mince pie brownies, and Christmas cakes for years during December, but this year I'm going to make an effort to only bake new recipes. I hope I can discover some unknown gem of a Christmas bake, making a change from what we normally enjoy at home (often carrot cakes, Tres Leches, Victoria Sponge...) and I hope to be able to bake and deliver for you next Christmas!
So what am I planning to bake?
I have some amazing new recipes to try, what do you think to these?! Photos added as I wade through my baking wishlist...
- Peppermint Chocolate Slices- sugar hiiiiiiiigh! DONE
- My first ever baked cheesecake, 'Snowed in' Vanilla Cheesecake DONE
- Cranberry Red Velvet Cake - a nice change DONE
- Giant chewy amaretti Christmas cookies - lovely and gooey! DONE
- Cranberry and walnut muffins
- Mince pie cookies
- Stollen - I was nervous about this one but it was AMAZING! I made it vegan so I can share it with my lockdown bubble buddy, but I could eat it all myself!! Try it yourself - the recipe is on Seitan Beats Your Meat. DONE
- Cinnamon swirl bread
- Christmas pudding cookies - with crumbled pudding in the mix, mmm! Super easy to make, just combine everything, bake at 180 degrees for about 15 mins on a lined baking sheet. I added white chocolate and holly to make them look kinda like little pudds. (Doesn't make 18!!) DONE
- Christmas monkey bread - for my 18 month old daughter, who we've just discovered knows the word 'monkey'! DONE
- A large, single Christmas Tree gingerbread cookie DONE
That's a lot of new recipes, and I can only bake Christmas things until New Year, so I'd better get baking!
Fab Fudge are probably my favourite Bristol business of mine, and not just because they gave me their Christmas fudge to review!
Imaginative. Delicious. Dairy-free.
Those are the three words I would use to describe what comes out of the kitchens of Fab Fudge. You can find out more about Fab Fudge on a blog I wrote back in 2017, but what you need to know is right here: Their (plastic-free!) fudge is UNBEATABLE.
The company's founder, Jill, started her business in 2016, two months or so behind me, and we met at a local networking event. Since then, we've been working together every so often to help each other out, and keeping each other in sweet treats!
Jill and her team have released their Christmas selection for 2020, and I was lucky enough to taste the first batches off the shelf.
At the time of writing, Gingerbread fudge wasn't available on Fab Fudge's online store, but it's coming - and you'll be glad it did! I am a late convert to ginger flavoured things, but I'm really into it now. My firey gingerbread is YUMMY! So when Jill said she had a ginger delight up her sleeve, I jumped on it! Smooth, melt-in-the-mouth, and (like all Fab Fudge) 100% vegan. The ginger kick is subtle, but the creamy taste really won me over.
Christmas cake fudge
Christmas cake may be my favourite cake, and the fudge version didn't disappoint. I love the triple layer fudge design - new for 2020. Rich, fully-festive, and it looks just like a mini slice with actual marzipan and icing! Christmas Cake fudge is my new favourite (sorry apricot fudge!).
If you're looking for the perfect gift, I can only say, GO FAB FUDGE!! Even Theo Paphitis is a fan - you simple have to try something new with Fab Fudge's dairy-free fudge.
Thanks Jill, and I hope it's not too early to wish you and yours a very merry and profitable Christmas.
Today is World Diabetes Day, so I am going to share a personal story with you. In January 2019 I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (pregnancy diabetes).
November 14th is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting. Banting discovered insulin in 1922, alongside Charles Best.
This blog is intended to reassure pregnant women who discover they have Gestational Diabetes, to help inform others, and to promote a low sugar lifestyle. I recognise that every diabetic's journey is different. Thanks for reading.
Gestational Diabetes and Me
I'm not going to lie - my Gestational Diabetes diagnosis last year was a total shock. I was a healthy 30-something year old with no underlying conditions, just a slightly elevated BMI when I became pregnant. I had a couple of tearful, angry, confusing days (all while all my family were abroad and I had a stomach bug to boot!), but got a grip on myself and got on with making the necessary appointments at the hospital and researching how to cope with the last two trimesters of my pregnancy. I joined a supportive Facebook group for GD mums - the name escapes me now but it was linked to this website - and made a decision: I was going to manage my gestational diabetes (GD) by altering my diet alone, as far as possible. Taking medication while I was pregnant was something I was not keen on doing.
And something did have to be done. We all know too much sugar isn't good for anyone, but I thought we were doing ok. My husband and I exercised daily and had a balanced diet; we avoid fizzy drinks, I'm not that bothered by chocolate and sweets, we eat lots of veg, a mixture of meat and veggie dishes, hardly any puddings... but I needed to essentially cut out 90% of my starchy carbs, having to be super strict and focused, and change my eating times and habits completely. Food, more than ever, would be on my mind throughout the day, I could see!
GD can be bad news for both mum and baby, so I had no other option. There was no way I was going to let my faulty placenta/hormones win!
How did life with GD feel?
Those six months with no starchy carbs were tough. This was a huge challenge for me, as I still maintain bread is my favourite food, and cereal a close second. Pasta, chips, rice, potatoes - fine, I wouldn't miss them too much, but bread and cake??? ARGH! Even fruit intake was limited to blueberries and cherries (expensive), and pears (ick), no dried fruit at all and certainly no bananas. I live on bananas, normally!!
I was diagnosed exceptionally early too, at 17 weeks pregnant, so the journey until the end of June seemed a dauntingly long one. Some days I'd fail and curse my blood tester, especially early on when I wasn't sure just how few carbohydrates I could tolerate (basically none!), but never did I fail because I didn't take care or thought 'oh handful of chips won't hurt'. I was so strict, my diabetes consultant appeared to think I was not being honest with my blood numbers recording! I even made my baby shower cake low sugar so I managed a little nibble of that. And being a baker? Oh boy, no cake for 6 months... That may explain my higher than ideal BMI though, cake was always around me.
As a positive, just before I gave birth, I actually ended up weighing 8kg less than when I got pregnant due to my change in diet. Go figure - sugar, even in low doses, is naughty!
After giving birth, GD thankfully generally disappears like magic. My first request in recovery was a giant baguette - no butter, no filling, just solid carbs intake. It was heaven. However, I do need to now keep an eye on my diet and exercise, being a little more mindful than before perhaps. I try hard to avoid carbs as snacks, and I always have a zero carb breakfast - eggs are my saviour. My treat is still ice cream, and I now make sure I drink more water as opposed to squash and absolutely no fruit juice. Desserts? Just when we have visitors for dinner.
Should baby no.2 come along, there's a chance of another diagnosis of GD, but I now know what works for me - there hopefully won't be any failures on my blood test scores like when I was still learning how low my tolerance was for sugar. Diet controlled GD is possible, but I am sure hoping I will escape GD should I become pregnant again.
Top Diet Tips for GD Mums!
Roast dinners - no potatoes or parsnips.
Cheese. Lots of cheese.
Diet drinks are fine, and weirdly I didn't like Diet Coke before I was pregnant, so that gave me a bit of variety in liquid intake. Water can get so boring!
Anything you can slather with peanut butter - including dark chocolate digestive biscuits!
High fat icecream - oh yes!
Meat: Cold cuts, double portions in a meal... GD unfortunately put a stop to my vegetarianism.
Fry-ups - no baked beans, hash browns or toast, lots of sausage, egg, bacon, grilled tomato, mushrooms...
How did having GD affect my business?
Well, first of all, GD made me incredibly tired. There was one instance when I was on holiday and I slept night-day-night, only getting up for a music concert. I even fell asleep briefly at my desk - twice - at work, how embarrassing. I'd get home and go to bed. Life just didn't really have any excitement for a long time! This tiredness meant my capacity for baking was severely reduced. I hired a couple more bakers to my homebaking team and carried on as long as I could - until March, so not long, but I really was on my knees with exhaustion.
Secondly, on a positive note, I discovered so many low and zero sugar cake recipes! I now offer a range of cakes called '280 Zero'. Not all of them were sensible options, the banana recipes in particular, but it was a relief and a serious treat to be able to nibble a little slice once a month or so. I still try to make the cake we eat at home low sugar - good habits die hard!
Almost 18 months on from waving a happy goodbye to GD, I definitely think getting through GD so successfully on diet alone is one of my greatest achievements - topped only by being a fab mum to the baby who appeared at the end of it all! I am so proud of how I managed it, especially given my dedication for cake and bread. Seriously.
Welcome to the 280 Bakes blog! Most posts are by myself, Louise, but if you fancy guest blogging, give me a shout!