Today I turned !?! and it was fabulous - even in lockdown!
Thank you for all your good wishes - I had a lovely day with lots of food (dressed up for dinner!), birthday cake, a dog walk with a friend, a movie and opening some lovely presents with my family.
And what was my cake, I hear you cry?! My lovely mum made me my favourite cake and posted it to Bristol for me - Christmas cake in February, excellent!
Lockdown birthdays: I wasn't sure I'd get one, but I think I'll remember it for being not really very grand, but it was super lovely. I think I beat lockdown, today!
This time of year is challenging on a 'normal' year, without being in lockdown, so I am making a point to feel grateful for things in my life.
This week I am super grateful for...
1. Coming back to baking after two weeks recovering from having my appendix removed. I had so many orders waiting for me, it was a busy weekend! I feel so thankful for my lil' business and my lovely customers, it really makes me happy when I can bake, but also make people smile.
2. Finding a new supplier for dried rose petals - now I can get these beautiful cake embellishments in 100g bags instead of 20g bags, much better, I hate running out!
3. My husband has said will be baking me a birthday cake next week! He's only missed one year, I think, since we've been together, and it's a big deal. He doesn't bake, like, ever!
4. I am finding lots of time to read in the evenings, enforcing a 'no chores, no work' mantra from 8pm. This makes me happy.
5. And, of course, I'm extremely grateful for this little creation of mine (ours). She is the most adorable baby ever - yes, every mum says that, but really, she is!! - and the true love of my life. She's really impressed me lately with how comfortable she was being taken to nursery by someone else while I was sick, and how she laughed off repeated well-meaning pokes in the face by another 18 month old yesterday!
Yes, February is wet, windy and cold, but I'm feeling good - even a little lighter with than b*gger of a giant appendix gone!
Hope you're having a good week too,
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!
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!
You heard it here first... All this week I'm giving away a free jar of Beanies coffee with every coffee cake order!
I really love Beanies coffee (and I'm not getting paid or any free product from them for saying this! My two favourite instant coffees they make are amaretto and caramel (I totally get distracted on their website!), and they're sugar free as a bonus.
So if you're looking to order a cake this week, why not make it my coffee or coffee and walnut one, and nab yourself a free jar of Beanies coffee (RRP £2.50)!
Offer expires Sunday 15th November, limited jars available. Gluten free and vegan cakes included in the deal, of course!
Welcome to the 280 Bakes blog! Most posts are by myself, Louise, but if you fancy guest blogging, give me a shout!