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.
Did You know I've written an ebook called 'Easy Vegan Baking'?
It's coming up to the third birthday of my ebook EASY VEGAN BAKING - how time flies! Have you grabbed your copy yet? It's free on Kindle Unlimited, or £5.99 to download, and is chock full of
- vegan lifestyle tips
- baking tips
- information about vegan campaigns
- a three course meal menu
I am so proud of this book, and have even included some of my special 280 Bakes recipes - six in fact! There's no excuse... vegan or not, get baking cake!
The easy answer is "generally, no, cake sprinkles are not vegan", but I do have some alternatives for you!
If you're planning to make vegan cupcakes, your sprinkles and pre-made decorations ingredients lists need to be examined to see if they contain animal products. Some are difficult to spot but I have some great alternatives to the normal range you'll find in the baking aisle.
Before we start, here are some common ingredients to avoid:
Confectioners' Glaze - made from insects
Cochineal and Carmine (more bugs)
Certain colours (E20 is a common one)
What do I suggest instead to make your cupcakes look super fancy?
First, try Googling for inspiration. There are many companies (e.g. some small businesses on Etsy) who will post sprinkles to you. Vegan Dollhouse has a huge list on her blog too - take a look here.
Second, try thinking away from actual sprinkles for cake decorations. How about using...
- fresh fruit - strawberries and raspberries work well, but use caution with softer berries like blackberries which might bleed into the buttercream.
- popcorn - super easy to pile up if you're using caramel sauce.
- dark chocolate squares - a favourite of mine.
- edible flower petals - I've used rose and lavender recently, a lovely finish and aroma.
- freeze dried fruit - I love raspberries and strawberries here, again.
- biscuits like Lotus biscuits, Party Rings and Oreos.
- Sweets like Jelly Tots, Flying Saucers, Skittles - inject some colour into your cupcakes!
Don't forget cocoa powder too - a dusting of this over bright white buttercream looks great if the swirls are well defined.
And if you fancy making your own vegan sprinkles (who has THAT time??), take a look at this video I found on Youtube.
Let me know if you give this tutorial a go, I'd love to see your resulting sprinkles!
My customers are full of questions, love 'em! Here are some of the recent queries I've had, and the (helpful) answers below...
1. Is a cupcake the same as a muffin?
Nope. A cupcake has much higher butter and sugar content and they have fancy icing on the top. Muffins are often more appropriate for breakfast, often being similar to bread, and cupcakes are better for dessert.
2. How do I pay for a 280 Bakes cake?
Paypal is preferred (to email@example.com) or cash, as a second preference. This is mainly to make it simple to take payment immediately when a customer books a delivery in, but it also limits physical contact during these Covid-19 days.
3. What's the difference between a Chocolate cake and a brownie?
The main difference between brownies and chocolate cake is that brownies have more chocolate content and are gooey. Baking powder and soda are not used in brownies and they often have more sugar than a cake would. Both are delicious, though!
4. Why are bundt cakes so much more expensive?
Simply because there's almost four times the amount of mixture that goes into the cake compared to a traditional homebake, and the size means they take so much more time to bake. Perfect for a party, a real centrepiece!
5. What do you use instead of egg in a vegan cake?
There are many different things recipes call for in egg-free cakes. For example, many of my cakes contain flaxseed, banana, apple sauce or yoghurt instead. You can also do a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, but I prefer to use fruit based or seed products.
I hope this was useful, please let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you!
It's pretty nasty when cake batter curdles. Here's how to avoid and fix the problem!
Avoid those liquidy lumps by using room temperature ingredients. When ingredients that are too cold mix together, they don't combine and can result in a gross lumpy mixture. Eggs are normally the culprits, so ideally get them out the fridge around an hour before you start to bake.
And what to do to save a curdled mixture? You can add a little more flour to sort out the liquid mess, but don't add too much! This will cause an imbalance of the cake ingredients, making your cake drier. A tablespoon or two should be plenty to make the batter smooth.
Yes, you can bake a curdled batter, it's not the end of the world, but it may be a little more dense than you'd normally have.
Just a quick blog week, I'm going to go and make the most of the sun. August will be over before we know it!
If you're a home baker yourself, you may have had the problem of a cake that sinks.
A sunken cake is incredibly frustrating and disappointing. Your hard work and careful preparation has ended up a disaster, and you can't really save it - not even with decoration!
<< This week I'm sharing my top five tips to prevent a cake turning out like this!
How to prevent a cake from sinking:
1. Do not open the oven door while your precious cake is baking. If you absolutely need to because the cake is browning a little on one edge, do it when there's 5-10 mins left on the bake. You should be safe in a 40 min recipe. Also, don't slam the door shut!
2. Don't use too much baking powder. It may be tempting to put a little more in for a good rise, but first of all, you may be able to taste it - ick! - and second, the cake will rise too high too fast, and will most likely result in a collapse.
3. Ensure you have your oven at the correct temperature - if it's too hot, the same will happen as with the baking powder overdose.
4. Make sure you don't under-bake the cake. If the sides (which cook first and quicker) are done, the middle may still be a little soggy. Cover your tin with foil and bake for a little longer until a deep, central skewer poke comes out clean.
5. Make the mixture and immediately put it in the pan. Don't leave it on the side for later, stick it straight into a pre-heated oven.
Prefer to use your kitchen for cocktail making, parties and doing the laundry? Save yourself a cake baking nightmare and ...
All the best,
Who knew there were rules about using salt? Well, there are!
I thought hard about my first blog post following reopening. Salt occurs more in my personal bread baking, but a pinch or so does feature in many cakes (e.g. vegan chocolate cupcakes).
So 'rules' plural may be stretching the concept, but there's definitely one rule you should always follow when using salt in your sweet bakes.
Use fine sea salt wherever possible.
This is because it is easier to measure, dissolves quickly, and is not iodised. Iodised salt can give an unpleasant taste to baked goods - something to avoid, for sure!
For a list of baking rules you can break (in fact, we encourage you to break them!), visit our blog "Three Baking Rules That Were Meant To Be Broken" from July 2018.
PS. As a bonus, while researching this blog, I came across this - apparently salt can be good for your teeth too!
We get asked fairly often if cakes can be frozen, so we're here today to clarify!
Welcome to the 280 Bakes blog! Most posts are by myself, Louise, but if you fancy guest blogging, give me a shout!