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!
Welcome to the 280 Bakes blog! Most posts are by myself, Louise, but if you fancy guest blogging, give me a shout!