life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Mini bakes and a product review — Thursday, 26th September

Mini bakes and a product review

Mini Victoria Sandwich with grapefruit and lime curd and buttercream
Mini Victoria Sandwich with grapefruit and lime curd and buttercream

I had been coveting the Lakeland 12 hole mini baking tray for some time and was delighted when I received it as a gift.  It was a good solid product with loose discs in the bases and a few spares too, in case of loss.

Mini 12 hole baking tray
Mini 12 hole baking tray

Before jumping straight in as I would normally do, I read all the reviews on the website and took note of the fact that some people had experienced problems with the tiny sponges sticking.

To avoid falling into the same trap, I was particularly careful whilst greasing each indentation.

For the batter, I used their own recipe on the website for Mini Lemon Curd Sponge Cakes but I created my own grapefruit and lime curd (recipe below).  I made sure not to overfill each one, stopping at three-quarters, however, I found that there was too much mixture for the twelve cases.

Once the first batch were baked I fill another 4 and baked again.  The second lot came out looking like big top tents!

Sponge cake or pork pie?
Sponge cake or pork pie?

I needn’t have worried as the sponges didn’t stick at all, in fact they all came away from the sides and popped out really easily.

I was a bit surprised at them, as they looked more like pork pies than sponges and they were very small.  At first I was rather disappointed, but that didn’t last long as when I sliced them in half and filled them with curd and buttercream, they looked magnificent and tasted fantastic, light as a feather, with the zestiness of the curd, cutting through the sweet buttercream.

Grapefruit and lime curd

A slightly different curd
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 lime
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 75g butter
  1. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and juice from the grapefruit and lime in a heat proof bowl
  2. Place over a saucepan of boiling water and cook gently stirring constantly
  3. Do not allow to boil
  4. Eventually the mixture will thicken to a mayonnaise consistency
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter
  6. Leave to cool
  7. Refrigerate until use
Grapefruit and lime curd
Grapefruit and lime curd
My Christmas muffins — Thursday, 20th December

My Christmas muffins

Snow capped fruity muffins
Snow capped fruity muffins

We were out of cake.  It was too soon to cut the Christmas cake, which I haven’t even iced yet, so instead I made some fruit packed, Christmas inspired muffins with a good dollop of snow on top.

Christmas muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • Makes 16
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 240ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 medium sized carrots, grated
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 30g dessicated coconut
  • 60g chopped dried figs
  • 60g sultanas
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • [b]Icing[/b]
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • Silver balls
  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and vanilla.
  4. Add the liquid to the flour mix and stir until well combined.
  5. Grate in the lemon zest then fold in the carrots, apple, coconut, and dried fruit.
  6. Stand paper cases in a muffin tray and spoon mix into each one so it’s approx 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for approx 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centres comes out clean.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes in the tray and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. For the icing beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the icing sugar. Gently beat in.
  10. Add the vanilla and mix, then add a few drops of lemon juice. Beat well. Add more lemon sparingly, be careful not to make it too wet.
  11. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and decorate the top of each cake; alternatively spread on with a pallet knife.
  12. Finish off with a festive silver ball.
  13. Leave to set before serving.


Muffin packed full of fruit
Muffin packed full of fruit
Baking and the weather — Wednesday, 26th September

Baking and the weather

American apple and apricot cake
American apple and apricot cake


At the beginning of the week the news was full of weather warnings and indeed, England did seem to be suffering with vast amounts of rainfall resulting in flooding.

The forecast said that it was heading our way and would be accompanied by gale force winds with gusts up to 72mph.

Apple tree
Scotch Dumpling apples firmly fixed to the tree

On Monday night it was getting a bit breezy so Himself ventured outside to batten down the hatches and Tuesday morning arrived with a blast.  Some guttering blew down but we didn’t suffer any real damage.  The sheds stood up to it and thank goodness we no longer have tiles on the steading roof to get blown away.

One thing that did concern me was the apple trees, some of which had been laden with fruit.

This morning I pulled on my waterproof trousers, as it’s the only safe way to walk through the fruit garden with all those killer stinging nettles, donned some gauntlets up to my elbows and ventured out there to collect the windfalls.

I was stunned to find all the apples still firmly attached to the trees, especially since they were directly in the path of the gales.   They obviously can’t be ripe just yet.  Rather than retrieving them from the ground, I picked a few from the tree and came inside to make this week’s cake for the  Weekly Bake Off.  Taken from Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes and Bakes. it was the American Apple and Apricot cake (the recipe can be found here) or as I’ve decided to call it, the Triple A Cake.

A slice of my Triple A cake
A slice of my Triple A cake

I had a problem with the loose bottomed cake tin as some of the mixture leaked out all over the oven.  Perhaps I should invest in some better baking tins but overall the cake turned out nicely.  Maybe it was the slightly unripe apples but it wasn’t a very sweet cake.

And now for the verdict from Himself.  As soon as he cut into it and spotted fruit, he was immediately on the lookout for stodge but in fact it was a good bake, although the top was rather uneven so it scored only 8/10.

A surprising cake — Thursday, 19th July

A surprising cake

A surprise centre in a Victoria sandwich
A surprise centre in a Victoria sandwich

I love Lakeland.   Our nearest store is in Aberdeen and one day we drove all the way there, me filled with excitement and Himself with trepidation, only to find it was closed for refurbishment.  I know I can shop online but sometimes you just need to see and feel the things in real life.

My experimental flan case
My experimental flan case

I was browsing a little while ago and I came across the Silverwood Victoria Surprise Cake Tin.  I desperately wanted it but with a cupboard full of cake tins, I couldn’t really justify the cost.  The fact that you could also bake sponge flan cases as well as cakes, made me want it all the more.  However, after examining the pictures carefully I rummaged around and pulled out a couple of stainless steel bowls, the kind you use to feed dogs (I would just like to point out that I haven’t used these bowls for dog feeding).  I put the smaller one upside down inside the other, made a fatless sponge and managed to turn out a flan case of my own.  It was a bit on the deep side but I filled it with orange roasted rhubarb, poured over a fruit jelly and left it to set.   It was quite pleasant served up with some goat’s milk ice cream.

I mentioned my experimental baking to my mother and within a few days, a parcel from Lakeland turned up on my doorstep.  Inside was the Silverwood Cake Tin.  I was thrilled and wanted to get started on my cake immediately but unusually for me, I had no sugar.

Insert baked into the cake
Insert baked into the cake

A few days later, with bags of sugar at the ready, I milked Lily and ran it through the separator hoping for a big jug of cream.  For some reason the milk only produced a few ml so I had to think of something else for the filling.

I had studied all the reviews on the website and I knew I had to grease and line the inserts to prevent sticking so I didn’t stint on my prep.  I made the batter according to the recipe on the leaflet that came with the tins – see recipe below.

In the oven the cakes had to sit on different shelves but both rose beautifully, although rather unevenly but that is the fault of my Rayburn.

When both were done I left them to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before turning them out.  I was delighted when they slid out easily until I discovered that the inserts had been baked into the sponge.  For some reason the cake mix had managed to get in between them and the base.  I had to cut them out.  It rather ruined the look of the sponges which was a great shame.

Sponge halves or flan cases
Sponge halves or flan cases

With the minuscule amount of goat cream, I made a vanilla buttercream filling for one half and in the other half I put leftover lemon and ginger that I saved and preserved in sugar syrup, from my recent ginger beer brewing.  Getting the two halves together was a bit tricky and I did think the top sponge was going to break up as I plonked it on top of the bottom, but it survived.

It sealed up quite well, hid the uneven bake and the filling and with a quick sprinkle of icing sugar, actually looked quite spectacular.

Cake done, hiding the filling
Cake done, hiding the surprise filling

I left it overnight in the cool utility room and the following day served it up after lunch.  As we excitedly cut into the cake, I warned Himself that since it was stuffed full of the rich buttercream, he may only want a small slice but that didn’t stop him.  Despite it’s unevenness, it still looked pretty impressive, but the sponge did look a bit stodgy.

Overall when you got the mix of sharp lemon and tangy ginger plus the sweet vanilla cream and sponge it tasted superb. The only thing that let it down was that when it came to eating the edge, you got more sponge than filling and it was a bit bland. If I can overcome the problem of the inserts, it should be capable of producing a superb cake.

A surprising cake

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Filling
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 280g icing sugar
  • 50ml double cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ jar jam
  1. Heat oven to 180C. Beat all the ingredients together into a smooth batter then spoon into the prepared tins and spread evenly
  2. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch
  3. Remove from the oven but leave in the tins for 10 minutes to cool
  4. Turn out onto a cooling rack and remove inserts and greaseproof paper
  5. Leave to cool completely
  6. Make buttercream filling by beating the softened butter with icing sugar, double cream and vanilla essence until well mixed and fluffy
  7. Spoon the buttercream into the well in one half of the sponge and spread out evenly
  8. In the other half spread the jam
  9. Carefully place the half with buttercream on top of the half with the jam
  10. Decorate with sifted icing sugar


Back to the bake-off — Sunday, 24th June

Back to the bake-off

Chocolate and vanilla marble loaf
Chocolate and vanilla marble loaf

It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve entered the Weekly Bake Off from Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes and Bakes.  The challenge was a Chocolate and vanilla marble loaf and the recipe and instructions can be found HERE.  I’ve been out of synch with my cake making but this week it just so happened that we were in need of cake and I had the correct ingredients.

It’s an easy enough cake to make although I did end up smothered in cake mix probably the result of having two separate bowls of the stuff.  I have to say the chocolate batter was absolutely delicious raw and it reminded me of when I was a child, baking with my mother.  I always wanted to eat the uncooked chocolate cake mix but of course I wasn’t allowed.  I vowed that when I grew up I would make the mix and eat it straight from the bowl.  Can’t say I’ve ever done it but I was tempted by this one.

When the cake rose in the oven it looked like the rocky mountains and just when I thought it was cooked, it erupted like Vesuvius and ended up more uneven.  I tried slicing the top before icing but settled for hiding the worst of it under a chocolate layer.

The first batch of white chocolate I tried to melt for the decoration went thick and lumpy so I had to start that again but in the end it didn’t look too bad, although I wouldn’t enter it in any competitions, except this one of course where I have the option of selective photography!

When I cut into it, I was quite pleased with the two-tone effect – not quite up to Mary’s perfect horseshoes but not bad.

And now for the verdict.  Himself gave it 8/10.  I was expecting gasps when I revealed the chocolate and vanilla marbling but he seemed underwhelmed by it.  Said it was a nice bake although bordering on the dry side but it hasn’t stopped him eating it even though dark chocolate is not his favourite.

Full view of cake
Nowhere to hide – here it is in all it’s uneven glory