I’m back!!!

I have managed to entangle myself from the copious books, journals, interview notes and drafts at last. Masters ….. done!

Below is my study where I have been hibernating for the last few months…… sorry for the mess. I feel its a bit like those crime scene photo games where you have to look for clues.

The eagle eyed among you might find a few clues as to what has been fuelling my studying………….


Looking forward to catching up with everyone, it may take a while. Feel free to leave me a comment about what you’ve been up to and what’s new with you all.


Sorry guys, its been so long since I last blogged, in fact its been so long since I did any baking worth posting about. Since returning from my holidays I have been buried under the research for my dissertation and I recently started a new job, so as you can imagine I’m slightly ( read very) stressed. Just thought i’d let you know that I was here, but not really here. The temptation is to get immersed in my blog and other blogs when I have a difficulty with my dissertation rather than persevering but this is false logic as I fall further behind my timetable, with time running out fast. I hope you all understand and can forgive my absence for a wee while I be very selfish,lock myself in my study and drink copious amount of coffee!

In the meantime here’s some of my holiday pictures…..

SAM_7334Guess where this is??


Fancy a bath anyone?


Lovely weather! We also copied the sheep and sheltered behind the standing stones!


Lots of programmes and films filmed here including Harry Potter!



Of course, we had to take a walk over fields to see the cows,the quality of land and crops growing nearby… oh and a nosy to see what other farmers are doing!


We also walked up hills to see the White horses ( and to have a look at the what the farmers were doing in the field below!)






Yummy Birthday Cake

I had been asked by a good friend to make a birthday cake for her hubbies 40th Birthday. I had never made a proper birthday cake before, you know a sponge with buttercream and jam in the middle, buttercream around the sides and top, then fondant icing on top with fondant icing decorations. The nearest birthday cakey type item I made was a Christmas Fruit cake, which had marzipan then fondant icing on top but the decoration consisted of fondant stars made by using stampers!! No difficult decoration techniques there.

My mother in law makes Wedding and Birthday cakes and she is really good at it, so I asked for her sponge and buttercream recipes. Part of me thought I could make the cake then run over to my MOL’s and get help with the decoration as she has all the proper tools and experience. However, I was running short on time to do this, so I had to forge ahead using my limited cake decorating skills, hubbies artistic input and google!

Sponge recipe

Ingredients for a 9 inch cake– 350 grams of softened organic Scottish butter, 350g grams of caster sugar, 350 grams of self raising flour, sifted and 7 eggs ( which should weigh 350 grams when out of their shells) and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Preheat the oven to 160 °C. Grease and line a 9inch cake tin. You can use a smaller tin, just reduce the quantities but make sure that you use the same  weight of butter, caster sugar, flour and eggs e.g for a 8 inch cake reduce all to 250 grams.

Place the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy.


Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoonful of flour. Make sure it is beaten and mixed well. Add the vanilla essence and the remaining flour.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin, smooth the top and place in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean.

Then leave to cool in the tins, for about 15 minutes, then remove from tins and remove the greaseproof paper. Once completely cooled cut the cake in half to make two layers.


Ingredients– 255 grams of Scottish Organic butter, softened, 680 grams of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Add butter to your mixer and whip until light and creamy, then add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla and whip until combined.

Sugar Syrup

Ingredients– About 100ml Water and  100 grams Sugar. Optional add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or any other flavouring that compliments the flavour of your cake.

In a pan add some sugar and water and place on low heat until sugar dissolved. Then take off heat and add the vanilla or other flavouring

Brush the layers of the cake with the sugar syrup to keep the sponge moist then leave to dry. Don’t put too much on as you don’t want it to be soggy.

Then place one layer of the cake on a plate or board and add a layer of jam, then add buttercream on top of the jam to create the filling. Add the next cake layer and cover the top and the sides with a thin layer of buttercream to create a Crumb Coating. As you can see my layer was a bit too thick! Then place in fridge to chill until set.


I then gave the cake another light coating of the syrup sugar after I took it out the fridge and before I covered with fondant icing.


I can not take credit for the design as to get inspiration and ideas for how to decorate the cake I went to google and Pinterest, of course. There were lots and lots and lots of images of cakes made for doctors, most of which seemed to have the cake as the doctors coat and then scattered on the top over the coat, the instruments doctors use.  “The Doctors Coat” cake by My Sugar Creations was a particular inspiration and design that I utilised elements from.

This was the first time I had decorated a cake so was a bit rough looking! I also was limited by the colour of fondant icing that was available in my local shop, hence the white, red and black theme.  Mistakes on the side of the cake where covered up by using an icing pen to ice surgical stitches, although I forgot to take a piccie to show you.

Can you guess what all the instruments are supposed to be??



Nanaimo Bars

Trying to show the layers, hence the two photos in different lights and both still pretty crappy pics!

Nanaimo bars ( which I always end up spelling slightly differently every time I write it !) were my choice of recipe for the No bake tray bake class at my local show.  I wanted a recipe that was a bit different. The usual recipes people tend to go for is the classic rocky road, but I wanted a recipe that no-one else would have made and also a recipe that I hadn’t yet made myself. I like to try new things.

My hubbie has often spoke about his grans baking when he was younger. She still bakes today, but not to the same scale and I’m led to believe that she would bake so much she would forget what she had made and tins of baked goodies would be found in the cupboards weeks after being made. Hubby had often mentioned Nanaimo bars with great fondness. His gran however does not keep recipes, or rather the recipes are all in her head and not written down and they often start with, ” oh I just put a handful of this and a wee handful of that…..” so I had to search online to get a recipe.

It was during this search that I noted that these seemed to be really popular in Canada, but not so much here. In fact not many people had heard of them so not sure how they managed to find there way to a Scottish farmhouse of my hubbie’s youth in the 80’s!

They are a very sweet, chocolate and custard bar and they reminded me of a bar that my hubbies Uni flatmate used to make for going rock climbing. Full of sugar, fat and energy! Maybe not the best advertisement and I’m not sure I would allow children to have these too often.

I got this recipe from the GoodtoKnow website and it was the first and only recipe for Nanaimo bars that I tried. My practice went really well, much better than when I actually made them for the show.



Bottom layer- 125 grams of Scottish organic butter, 2 level tablespoons of golden caster sugar, 2 level tablespoons of cocoa, 1 medium egg, beaten, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 300 grams of digestive biscuits and 60 grams of desiccated coconut.

Middle Custard Filling Layer-60 grams of Scottish Organic butter, 2 tablespoons of custard powder, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 250 grams of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Topping- 150 grams of Organic dark chocolate, 30 grams of Scottish Organic butter, 4 tablespoons of strong black coffee.

First of all line your baking tray with greaseproof paper. My baking tray was a 9 inch x 7 inch.

For the bottom layer, in a pan over a low heat add the butter, sugar, cocoa and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves. Now in my pracgice go this step went fine. Nice and simple you would think, however the second time I made it, the butter itself seemed to separate into two distinct liquids,the mixture looked awful and was really runny. I binned that and started again. This time around, it worked fine and came together and melted perfectly. My thought was perhaps the butter had been left out too long, so when it melted the grease separated??? Not sure if this is the case however I think the key is also to keep the mix on a low heat and stir continuously. Once melted take off the heat.

Place the digestives in food bag and use a rolling pin to mash into crumbs.

Add the egg, vanilla,  digestive crumbs and coconut into the mix. To stop the egg curdling I add a bit of the mix into the egg and mixed then add the egg/ choc mix into the pan. Mix together well then add to your lined baking tray. Press the mix into the tray, making sure it is even and then leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Middle custard filling layer-  In a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the custard powder, vanilla and then the icing sugar and lemon juice and mix until all combined and until it has a spreadable consistency.  Then evenly spread this lovely mix over the top of the biscuit layer and pop back in the fridge for 2 hours.

Topping- Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water in a pan. Once melted, whisk in the coffee and then spread the chocolate/coffee mix evenly over the top of the custard layer. Leave outside the fridge until set. Now the first time I made this, the chocolate layer set beautifully however, this time when I checked to see whether the layer had set, there were butter/ grease streaks on the chocolate. Now I think this was due to having the butter out on the counter getting soft and sweaty for longer than I should have. However, as I had no time to start again, I melted another 15o grams of chccolate, leaving out the butter and coffee this time, then spread this over the top of the choc/coffee layer. This was the reason I did not have enough chocolate for my intended brownie recipe!

The coffee/ choc layer doesn’t really harden all that much in comparison with a layer that is just chocolate, so it actually worked out well that I had the biscuit/ coconut base, custard layer, choc/coffee layer then a chocolate covering.

Cut into small bars, a little of this goes a long way!

Sorry, there are no pics of the actual cut pieces, turns out baking for competition and remembering to take photos ( and good photos at that) do not go hand in hand for me.  I’m working on it though.



Local Show Baking results

Some of you may already be aware from my previous posts that I have been baking in an attempt to perfect cakes and recipes for entry into the local show. Well, the show has been and gone and I can tell you that even with all my practice, the day before was still a chaotic blur day of baking, making mistakes and frantically trying to get everything done on time for the Saturday. Entries had to be at the show and exhibited before 9am, so really Friday was the day to get it all done. There could be no last minute baking or amendments on the Saturday morning, hence why I had dutifully practised my recipes. But to be honest, no matter how much practice you put in, things can inevitably go wrong, as I found out.

1 jar of Strawberry Jam class

I haven’t made jam very often, but I inherited my Nannies Jam pans and wanted to continue her tradition of jam making. I made the Jam a couple of days before, but to be honest this could have made weeks before.

There’s not much to strawberry jam, but here’s the recipe anyway……


1kg of British Strawberries, now I was told to not use overly ripe strawberries however I saw punnets reduced to £1.30 each in the local supermarket  due to them reaching there use by date and thought, sod it I’ll just use those or it would have cost me £8. 96 otherwise.

750 grams of Jam Sugar  which also has pectin in it and it really good for using with fruits that have little pectin in them. The Pectin helps the jam to set better.

The juice of 1 lemon

A knob of butter ( optional)

Place some small side plates into your freezer.

I washed the strawberries using a damp cloth to try and not get too much moisture into them and them hulled and halved them. Fortunately half way through I got a phonecall so I forced my hubbie to take over this bit!

Put the Strawberries, Sugar and lemon juice into a pan and place on the stove at a low heat. You basically want all the sugar to dissolve. Make sure it does not boil at this point! To test if all the sugar has been dissolved I place a spoon in the mix and take it back out and check for granules on the back of the spoon. Also the sugar will stick to the sides of the pan, so occasionally get a brush dipped in warm water and brush the sides of the pan with it to help dissolve all the sugar.

Once all the sugar has been dissolved bring the mix to a boil and boil rapidly for between 5- 10 minutes until the mix is set.  I don’t use a thermometer  ( nether did my Nannie) so what I do is get a plate from the freezer and place a dob of jam on it, leave it for a few seconds and then press the jam with your finger. If the jam wrinkles and doesn’t move to fill the gap, then the jam has set. I do, however know that my hubbie’s gran made her jam runnier and missed out this stage!

If there is any scum on the top, skim this off and you can also put a knob of butter in the jam to help get rid of any scum. Leave the Jam in the pan for a wee while maybe 8-10 minutes. Its usually during this time I sterilise my jars. I put them in a preheated oven, 130° C for 8-10 mins and I usually put the lids in a basin of boiling water and pat dry with a clean cloth.

Then once jars are sterilised, fill the jars up with jam, not quite to the top and then I usually put in a wax disc on top of the jam, then add the lid.

Given that I had not made jam that often and the number of entries in this class on the day, I didn’t have high expectations, but I actually won 1st Prize! Apparently the judges, according to my mother in law, look for a really vibrant red jam. I have no idea how I managed it, but my jam was the brightest out of the bunch.


I also entered home made lemonade, brownies, lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars in their respective classes.

Glass of homemade lemonade class

For homemade lemonade, I used the recipe I had posted about previously but without the strawberries. I was surprised that I was the only entry in this class, so I ended up getting 1st Prize and a Highly Commended for my lemonade.  But given the lack of competition this doesn’t count!

SAM_7208 (2)


4 pieces of brownie class

My brownies were a slight problem given that after making the Naniamo bars, I did not have enough chocolate to use the recipe I wanted to. So much for forward planning! However, good old Delia stepped in with her classic brownie recipe that only used 50 grams of chocolate! I must admit though that the Brownies looked quite ugly, as they sank a bit in the middle, leaving big high crusty ends. I almost did not enter these, but thought I may as well since, despite their looks, they still tasted yummy. I dusted them with icing sugar and called them good. Surprisingly, I got 3rd place with them!!

See how ugly they are!!


My lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars did not place, but all in all I was well chuffed with getting prizes for my jam and brownies as I had not expected to get anything at all. I had been watching a cooking programme where professional chefs travel around Britain entering classes in the Local shows and it has shown me that even professionals can get it wrong and don’t always meet the criteria set by the judges!

P.s I will post the recipe for Brownies and Naniamo bars at a later date.



Out and about

SAM_7097.JPGI was out and about for a wee walk and had to take this picture.

The castle was forfeited in 1745, after the Jacobite rebellion when the owner was hung, drawn and quartered for treason . It was bought in 1765, but the new owners preferred to live in Edinburgh and it was abandoned.

The train line is the main East Coast line that goes South.

The Scottish Countyside, blending the old with the new!

Any thoughts?

Does the train spoil the view?

Add to the view?



First bread making attempt!

SAM_7045The other day I was in the living room pretending to study whilst watching the latest episode of Outlander, when a tractor stopped outside the house and a few moments later I heard hubbie come in the kitchen door. I looked up in time to see him smile, wave and head out the door again. I found this quite curious, but didn’t think anything off it until he finished work and he asked if I liked the present he dropped off.

Present? What present?

When I entered the kitchen I saw 2 bags of Organic Strong bread flour and 1 bag of organic self raising flour from one of the local farms. Now to most people, this wouldn’t be a present, but I was delighted. I’m sure other bakers will understand this too, as anything related to baking whether ingredients or utensils or gadgets are very much welcome.

Hubbie had been at the farm that mills and sells the flour and had been given 3 bags to take away with him. Lucky me!

As you will know from previous posts ( Pizza and Cinnamon buns) I have had mixed success with using yeast and making bread items. However, since the Cinnamon buns turned out well and since I now had a lot of strong bread flour I thought I’d try my hand at making bread.

This recipe comes from a cookbook I got from my mum and I remember her cooking from it when I was younger. Its the Diary Book of Home Cookery and the copy I have was published in 1978. This book came with me when I went to University and has been my bible ever since. Its the book I go to first when looking for a recipe  and it was from this book I learned how to make various sauces, Victoria sponge, pancakes, fruit loafs, macaroni and even how to line cake tins! Oh, of  course there are recipes I would never make such as tripe, kidneys espagnole, creamed liver, tongue with mustard sauce…… belugh…lets not dwell too much on those recipes.

The Ingredients for making White Bread are…..

450 grams of strong bread flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 15 grams of butter, 2 level teaspoons of yeast, 1/2 pint of warm water.

Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl.

The yeast actually has an unpleasant smell to it!


Add the yeast to a separate bowl and add a small amount of water and mix to form a creamy paste then add the remaining water and mix well.

Place the flour/ salt mix into the bowl of your stand mixer. However, if you are smart, unlike me, you will have sifted the flour and salt into this bowl in the first place! What can I say, I had a D’uh moment.

Attach the dough hook to your mixer and place your mixer on low and drizzle the yeast/ water mix into the flour. When it all comes together, take out the mixer and knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface or you can leave in your mixer and knead for 5 minutes. I kneaded by hand as I had never done that before and wanted to try the technique.


Then place the dough in a bowl and leave to double in size. I turned on my top oven, left the door open and placed the bowl on a seat in front of it. It rose very quickly.


Take out the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and knead until firm. Then shape the dough so that it fits inside a 1lb loaf tin. Melt some butter and brush the inside of the loaf tin then place the loaf inside.

Leave the dough to rise again, until it reaches the top of the tin. Again, my dough rose really well and quickly too. I had placed it back in front of the oven door!

Preheat oven to 230°C. Before placing in the oven, brush the top with milk or beaten egg or a mix of both. I just used milk. Then put in the oven for about 30 mins or until golden brown. After 30 mins my loaf had risen to well beyond the top of the tin and on one side was very very brown, probably too much for a loaf. Therefore next time I make this recipe I would check on it earlier.  I would probably also put the mixture in a 2lb loaf ti too.


Remove from the tin and cool on wire rack and salivate over the wonderful smell. Bread has got to be my favourite smell in the kitchen.

You could give into the tempting smell and cut off a piece and cover with butter………given that it was 10:30pm in our house with a 6:00am start the next day we refrained and went to bed with thoughts of fresh bread for breakfast.