An unforgettable day

30 Sep

Monday morning. I found myself on a miserable two hour
journey across London, hit at every turn in my trip by an obstacle;
5 full buses drove straight past me, I took a bus going in the
wrong direction after missing the tube that would get me to my
destination on time.

I turned up at the house of one of my donors
feeling stressed out and frankly a bit fed up. We got in the car
and headed to Birmingham, where my donor was to lead a workshop
with some disadvantaged young people with the aim of raising their
aspirations and challenging perceptions about what women can
achieve – particularly those who have had a tougher than average
start in life.

These young people were part of a programme that I
talk about all the time to individuals when I’m trying to encourage
them to give their money, time and expertise to support our work.
They are ‘the most marginalised in the UK’, ‘facing three or more
serious barriers such as homeless, mental health or drug abuse
issues’.
I talk about how 75% of them go on to do something
positive after the programme; return to education, get a job or
embark on training. I talk about young people all day every day.
I’ve met many of them in the 18 months I’ve worked for our charity,
but those I met today I won’t forget in a very long time.

As Tracey, my donor, started talking about her life, she gained an
immediate respect from young people who otherwise (for sadly very
valid reasons) have a great deal of mistrust of many adults. Tracey
couldn’t read or write aged 14, having grown up in one room with a
mother who dealt drugs and used her to shoplift – just so they
could survive.

She taught herself how to read and write as a
teenager using books most five year olds would find
straightforward, and she went to her first job interview in a pair
of shoes she’s borrowed from her mum that were two sizes two small.
She started on a clinique counter as a sales assistant, and has
worked her way up to now become one of the the most successful
people in the UK beauty industry. All the while trying desperately
to help her brother rehabilitate from a lifelong drug addiction.

As she continued through her incredible story, she pulled out lessons
along the way for the young people who sat and listened
attentively. ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t,
you’re right.’ Perseverance. Always striving to learn more.
Engaging with people and what they have to say in a meaningful way,
listening to people, building relationships, and working hard to
create opportunities for yourself to build the life you want and
deserve.

There were tears. One young girl broke down as she heard
Tracey talk about her brother. She asked ‘how did you cope with
it?’ as mascara ran down her face. She later told us her own
brother had been addicted to heroin and had taken his own life at
just 19. ‘He would have been 27 now’. She herself had gotten into a
habit of shoplifting and was working through a number of issues on
the programme, taking huge strides towards reclaiming her own life
and trying hard to stay away from negative influences.

One big lesson Tracey spoke about was respecting other people and treating
them as you would want to be treated; speaking to them how you
would want to be spoken to. One young man told us he had lost all
respect for other people and his manners when he went through the
care system. He was now trying to change for the sake of his one
year old daughter. Knowing what I do about the care system, I’m not
even remotely surprised that he felt angry, hurt and let down. A
system that’s supposed to nurture and look after those who have
been horribly let down by those who are supposed to love and care
for them is one which does precisely the opposite. And no one seems
to be in any hurry to change it.

One young woman in particular I won’t forget in a long time – let’s call her Jane. She was clearly
bright, articulate, and had ambitions to be a nurse and to start
her own business. We talked about taking small steps to reach your
long term goals; ‘that’s my problem, I always start big and then
feel like I fail when I have to do something smaller’, she said. We
took a break and I went to make a cup of tea, chatting to another
young woman in the kitchen who told me about the first meal she’d
cooked when her mum came to visit her in her hostel; ‘spag bol; I
was dead nervous but she munched it all and I felt really chuffed’.

When I went back into the room, Jane was wiping away tears as she
talked about how she’d come to the programme. No older than 19,
she’d been forced to leave home and move cities after her own
mother had tried to stab her. She later asked me what I did for The
Trust and I told her I raised money for programmes like this one.

She turned to me and said with a searing honesty I will never
forget ‘The Prince’s Trust has literally saved my life’.

She was completely alone; had moved here without a single friend,
unemployed, frightened, and not knowing where to turn. We had
reached out a hand, offered to listen to her and help her work
towards goals. I have no doubt that, despite an incredibly rocky
journey, she will succeed. And if, at points, she strays from the
path or reaches a block in the road, she knows that our door is
always open.

Today, for me, was truly humbling. I’ve worked for this amazing organisation for 18 months
and have met dozens of young people who have told me of the impact
it has had on their lives in any number of ways. But I rarely have
the chance to see such raw emotion; to witness the sharp end of
youth disadvantage; to be part of the journey. And to bring
together those who support our work with those who need our support
in such a meaningful and impactful way.

I thought about each of them a lot on my journey home. About how devastating it is that
young people – essentially children – grow up in a developed
society dealing with issues that would break most of us as adults.
About how fortunate I have been in my own life, and about what a
privilege it is to be able to reach out to those who can help them
and open their eyes to the impact they can have on individual
lives. I often talk about The Prince’s Trust – as many fundraisers
talk about many charities – as being ‘life-changing’. And that it
is.

But in future, I think I will change tact. I will talk about
the work we do – as it is in many cases – as life-saving. We’re not
a hospital; we’re not a medical research charity. We don’t work in
war zones or feed the starving and poor. But we do save lives. We
re-capture potential. We give hope to those who have lost the last
of theirs after a lifetime of being let down or abused. We breathe
new life into the next generation and we break a cycle of poverty
and helplessness.

I occasionally feel intimidated, or embarrassed -
un-British, if you will – at the prospect of asking people to give
us their own money – and large sums of it – to help us do our work.
Today made me remember that there is absolutely no shame in
inviting people to do something incredible. Something life-saving.

It was an unforgettable day. To the young people who listened,
shared and moved us, it was just another day on a turbulent path
towards the future they deserve.

On Sunday, I’m running the Royal
Parks Half Marathon in aid of The Prince’s Trust. As I run it, I
will think of each and every one of them with every step I take.
Particularly when my lousy knee starts to give me trouble.

If you’d like to sponsor me – and help more young people like those I met
today – you can do so at http://www.justgiving.com/blakeysgonebonkers

Or through the wonders of modern technology, you can text BLAK88
followed by your donation amount (e.g. £2) to 70070.

Believe me when I say that whatever you can give will
make a real and lasting difference.

Me Versus Me

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Exercise and I have never been close bedfellows. I spent most of my P.E. lessons at school sneaking off with to loiter on benches in the woods during cross country, making fart noises from the sidelines as the other girls scissored over the high jump bar, or – on one occasion – getting sent home for sort-of-inadvertently throwing a javelin in the general direction of our Mrs. Trunchbull-esque, obese, teacher, after she failed to respond to my requests to demonstrate a suitable overarm technique.

And things didn't really improve from there. I think it's safe to say that sport at my school wasn't a particular priority; we were allowed to spend our GCSE year either doing sport or getting changed into jeans (a true thrill for a 16 year old girl trying to get attention from the local acne-covered talent) and heading to the bowling alley up the road to fling the balls down as quick as we could before congregating at the local McDonalds. Ah, the heady days before Jamie Oliver lisped himself into a frenzy, when it was perfectly acceptable that our school canteen stopped selling home cooked meals and turned swiftly into a (undoubtedly horsemeat-laden) burger bar.

At the time, I really didn't care that sport was such an inconvenience; something that had never interested me; a time to muck about or to try every excuse in the book to get out of wearing our lampshade-esque P.E. skirt. You know the ones – 22 inch waist standard that cut you in half as you struggled with crippling puppy-fat issues, royal blue pleat, with matching sports knickers that would give you thrush if you so much as looked at them.

But as a grown up (supposedly), I look back wistfully and wish that sport was something I'd really been able to get my teeth into, or just that I'd recognised that sport has a valuable part to play in your development and your physical and mental wellbeing. My adult relationship with sport has been one which in human terms would be a disaster; sport needs consistency, regular attention, and commitment. I'm flaky, unavailable, and a total commitmentphobe.

 

I tend to exercise when I hit the point of despair. When I've put on half a stone and decide to undertake a – usually short-lived and suitably pointless – diet. I get the old exercise DVDs out, or maybe go for a couple of runs. When I don't see instant results, I get bored and give up, convincing myself that my 20s are supposed to be a time for debauchery, and reminding myself of the endless quotes I've read from actresses in magazines who are 'just so much more confident' in their own skin their 30s.

It would be easy at this point to just give up on exercise. 'It's not you, it's me.' I could say, shrugging my shoulders and deciding to come to terms with a life of struggling up flights of stairs and bemoaning my muffin tops and bingo wings in the tone of someone who has already been defeated in the body battle. But balls to that.

I was thinking long and hard about exercise recently, and my own attitude to it. As with most uncomfortable topics, when people talk to me about exercise, I give a self-depricating, jokey response. I talk about how I make all these plans to get fit then sack them off for tri-weekly pub visits because I'm 'hopeless'. But then I realised that getting out there and doing something active isn't about your attitude to exercise; it's about your attitude – full stop.

In the other parts of my life, I'm determined, ambitious, strong, resourceful, and organised. I set myself professional goals that I know will be a stretch because – as I always say in job interviews – I relish a challenge. I generally work consistently hard to achieve – and ideally overachieve – because I want to prove that I can grow into my role, to gain gravitas, to constantly learn from my experiences and to use these lessons to reach my goals. I evaluate my progress, I think about new ways I can develop myself, I welcome constructive feedback, and I deal with the mistakes and the blows with maturity – because any other way is futile.

 

So I got to thinking; why would I let there be a discrepency between my atttitude to life and my attitude to being active? Setting out to get fit or achieve a fitness goal is no different to setting out to reach a career goal, and it uses all of the same skills – ones I incite regularly during office hours. And I decided, enough is enough. I have the great fortune of working with some of the most successful women in the country on a daily basis, and I'm damn well willing to bet that they didn't get to where they are today by giving up at the first hurdle – pun fully intended – but by pushing on through the uncomfortable parts, dusting themselves off after a fall and getting straight back out there for round two. Even when the doubts creep in.

So here I am; a big ball of determination and plain stubbornness, refusing to be defeated by my own self-doubt, shunning my commitment phobia, and giving laziness the finger. I have a place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October and a pretty big fundraising target for the incredible charity I have the great privilege of working for (insert cheeky Just Giving page plug here).

I also had the great pleasure of cheerleading at the London Marathon today; 6 hours of whooping, cheering, screaming, and blowing a whistle to help tens of thousands of people achieve the goal they'd spent a year of long, cold, nights and sweaty Saturday mornings training for. Giving up hundreds of hours in the process, and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds between them.

As I watched the raw emotion on the faces of those at mile 21, some crying in pain, some grinning as we called their name, others relieved as they spotted a loved one and stopped for a much-needed sweaty hug, I felt truly thrilled. Thrilled to be a part of something so special and awe-inspiring, but thrilled because I knew that if all of these ordinary people could achieve something amazing, I could too.

So in the words of Monica Gellar; 'Stay out of it; this is between me….and ME'.

BRING. IT. ON.

PS – all inspiration welcome; whether books, blogs, personal anecdotes or training tips. What gets (and keeps) you moving?!

 

That’s me in the corner, losing my connection

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I find myself infuriatingly attached to my smartphone. I pay it more attention than I pay my health, spend longer looking at it every week than I probably do looking at a book (shameful I know), and enter a state of sheer panic in those few horrifying moments when I think it's somehow escaped my line of sight or grasp long enough to be stolen – only for it to turn up moments later in the depths of my permanently overloaded handbag.


————


I started writing this post just over a week ago. Ironically, the next night I managed to lose my iPhone somewhere in the gutter at Tottenham Court Road while juggling a McDonalds, playing the responsible adult for a somewhat wobbly colleague, and trying to navigate my way on to a night bus at 2am.

 

The next morning I woke up with not only a stinking headache, but a very expensive hangover.

 

And then the realisation struck that in losing this little black box, I'd entered the Bermuda Triangle of communication. My instant, all-knowing, city guide, navigator, workstation, timepiece and magical music box was no more. My initial feeling was a sort of multi-layered despair; despair at having been silly enough to lose it, despair at having to head out to work with no way of checking my day ahead or letting anyone know I was late, but, more than that, despair that I felt so useless without it in my hand.

 

It got me thinking even more about the unerring reliance on technology – and in particular, smart phones – that I and so many people in my life have. About how much the way we communicate has changed, and how I feel about it, my own frustrations at the way I've adapted to the change, and its impact on my relationships.


As I sit in a restaurant with friends, I look at a carefully laid table; plate, fork, knife, side plate, wine glass, iPhone. I find myself thinking about how rude it is to check facebook at the dinner table. And yet, as I await my starter, I scroll through titbits of life shared by people I care little about, barely know, or think of with disdain – titbits much less interesting than those being shared by those I'm sitting with; those I care about. Is the constipated baby of a girl I barely knew (or liked) at school more interesting than the career struggles of the friend I've been close to for six years?

 

At the pub, my colleagues and I wind down after a hard week, intermittently nudging and caressing our little black boxes to see what our online world has been getting up to while we've been indulging in actual facetime.

I sit on a bus and stare at a group of heavily-made up, noisy teenage girls. Their inane chatter irritates me at first, then I remember that my friends and I were exactly the same – though probably louder and decidedly more northern – and smile. Then I think about how glad I am that our chatter wasn't punctuated every three minutes by a domino-style drop of heads, swipe of fingers, lolling open of mouths, and instant dissection of a facebook status, tweet, or profile picture. I also think about how fortunate we were that our teenage lives weren't broadcast across the web; that our social standing, emotional welfare, or delicate hormonal balance couldn't be trashed at the nudge of a touch screen, the sharing of a photo, or an ill-timed tweet.

I started thinking even more about my online world as we were reunited after a week with a phone capable of little more than calls and texts. As I fell comfortably back into my routine of grasping for it at any moment of calm, boredom, or the few minutes between bus stops; expectant, hopeful, curious, or seeking an answer to a mundane question.

It turns out that losing my phone has made me realise what it was I really miss sometimes; unfiltered, unphotographed, undisturbed life. Proper, undiluted eye contact. The feeling of giving – and having – unwavering attention. Real focus and concentration on a task – any task. Learning and absorbing information in chunks that aren't bite-sized and backlit.

I can't remember the last time I made a meal or cake that looked remotely interesting or colourful that wasn't immediately instagrammed and shared with a bunch of people whose interest in my life spans all of 6 seconds. I can't remember the last time I saw something funny, had an interesting thought, or came up with a daft one-liner without thinking about how it would fit into 140 characters with maximum impact, to be shared with 600 people who will probably never read it as they flick mundanely through the last 200 tweets in their timeline.

Undoubtedly, my online world has brought me a wealth of good things. This blog has been an outlet for creativity and a saviour at times of frustration. Twitter has opened my eyes to what's happening in the wider world, what I can do to make an impact, and shown me the kindness of strangers on many occasions. Blogs and news pages are a source of new knowledge and inspiration. And online dating has, well, provided me with endless comic material. (see here for further reference).

 

But it strikes me that sometimes my little black box is stifling. That I climb into it to avoid doing things that take real effort, time or concentration. I find myself frustrated at feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day to do things I want to do; exercise, writing, cooking proper meals, or reading some of the dozens of books that are piled expectantly around my bedroom, corners tucked under after giving up a third of the way through. Yet I find the time to wander aimlessly around my little black box, sometimes for hours, most of the time wondering what on earth I'm doing there (much the same feeling as that of being in McDonalds at 2am on a Thursday night).

 

As I approach the celebration of a quarter of a century since I came kicking and and screaming into the world, I find myself thinking more about making each day count, and wondering about the person I'd be if I didn't waste so much time and energy. About the fact that I want to look back on each year and feel like I've achieved something important, done something good, reached a goal, helped someone, created memories that will endure. And it strikes me that if you continue to do the same thing, you will get the same results.

 

So I hope to use this jaded ramble as a springboard to action. As a kid, I once had a pet guinea pig that we kept temporarily in a large cardboard box. I thought he looked sad in such a dreary box, and that he must miss being able to see outside. So I decided to take action and cut him some lovely windows and doors (see diagram below). Needless to say, my architectural adjustments got me into a somewhat sticky situation – and resulted in lots of frustration for my poor mother as she tried to coax him out from behind our sideboard. But I don't doubt he had a lovely time enjoying his new found freedom and the fresh air.


So I'm doing the same for myself. My little black box feels in distinct need of some airholes; windows, even. To let in some fresh air and light; to give me a bit of clarity and focus. I hope to use it to make my twenty-fifth year one I will look back upon fondly through vivid memories, books read, fitness improved, prose written, and knowledge gained – rather than through my Facebook timeline.

 

Back to baking: sweet potato chocolate cake

10 Oct sweet potato chocolate cake

It’s been quite some time since I last posted here, and indeed, quite some time since I last baked. The past few months have been a bit of a blur; my relationship of almost six years came to an end, I moved house, and seem to have spent most of my spare time since organising my new flat and toasting to the next chapter of my life with my wonderful friends.

At times of stress or trauma, it seems natural to retreat to self-preservation mode, living day-to-day and focusing on the basics of feeding yourself, general life-admin (mainly consisting of desperate attempts to get through the bottomless pit of laundry without the aid of a tumble dryer and phonecalls to utility companies), and work.

But living like this does little to inspire creativity, happiness, or wellbeing. I’ve found myself craving a return to the more well-rounded me, and a big part of that is tied up with baking and writing; the great satisfaction of creating something from scratch. Whether a piece of prose, or a slice of cake – to create, share, and enjoy, I’ve realised, is fundamental to my happiness.

Today brings the birthday of a wonderful friend, Esther, who has helped to make the last few months a time of fun, friendship and endless wine-fuelled laughter. So, last night, I dusted off my apron, turned my music up to 11, and spent an hour or two singing away at full-volume (apologies to my new neighbours) and baking up a storm with a smile on my face. ‘I’m back’, I thought to myself.

Esther isn’t a fan of citrus cakes, which are almost a go to for me, so I went back to the failsafe choice of chocolate – with a twist. I’ve posted before about my love of Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet Chocolate cake, which features imaginative and decadent cakes made with vegetables in place of fat, and this recipe is adapted from one of hers.

I will admit to having something of a love-affair with sweet potato; its versatility, ability to hold its own against even the strongest of flavours, and quiet and assuming starring role in even the most decadent of cakes make it a staple in my shopping bag. It makes the texture of this cake quite unique; moist, but not heavy, sweet, and yet earthy. Like gravity, you never really notice it’s there, but it holds everything together. Ok, maybe that’s a little gushy, but it’s a damn good cake!

Besides that, it’s almost virtuous; the lack of butter in the cake surely compensates for the calorific content of the chocolate buttercream, and its vegetable content is a surefire way to convince yourself that seconds (and thirds) aren’t much worse than eating that dicey-looking apple in your desk drawer.  

Sweet potato chocolate cake

Ingredients

  • 200g sweet potato, finely grated. Squeeze most of the moisture out by wrapping it in a muslin cloth or kitchen roll.
  • 230g plain flour (use rice flour to make this gluten free)
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 125ml buttermilk (I used natural yoghurt with a dash of milk instead)

For the chocolate frosting

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 25-30 ml milk
  • Small bar of milk or dark chocolate to decorate (optional)

Method

  1. Grate your sweet potato into a bowl on your scales – it won’t weigh the same at the end as in the beginning as you’ll have lost moisture, so factor this in when buying.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4 and grease and line two circular baking tins
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together for a good 4 minutes until very pale and fluffy
  4. Add in your sweet potato and whisk again until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients – flour, baking power, bicarb, cocoa powder, ground almonds, and mix again.
  6. Finally, add in your buttermilk or yoghurt and beat until well combined.
  7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. The cake should be moist, but firm enough to the touch that you know it will hold.

For the frosting

  1. While the cake is cooking, start on your frosting. Beat together the butter, sugar and cocoa powder with an electric whisk or in a mixer until combined to a dusty texture.
  2. Slow down the beaters, then gradually add the milk until the frosting combines into a smooth texture.
  3. Et voila! Wait until the cake is completely cooled, before spreading in between the two layers and on the top with a spatula or pallet knife. (Feel free to like the whisk beaters while you’re waiting for the cake to cool down – in fact, I highly recommend it).
  4. Decorate the top with grated chocolate and/or chocolate shavings. To make chocolate shavings, use the edge of a sharp knife with the tip pointed out to the side. Pull the knife down the length of the chocolate bar (carefully) and you’ll be left with long, delicate shards of chocolate.

Don’t forget to share; it’d be criminal to keep this little number to yourself. Besides, the look on people’s faces when you tell them it’s a sweet potato cake is usually fairly entertaining…

Berry burst muffins

18 Jun

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Muffins are the busy lady’s best friend. After checking back on my blog for a recipe I’d posted a while back, I saw I hadn’t blogged since April; truly scandalous!

I’ve only baked a handful of times and have felt hard pushed for timea. I’d like to say it was result of working flat out and having a strenuous work out/hobby regime, but I’d been lying through my teeth. It’s mainly through socialising WAY too much with my new(ish) work colleagues (all in the name of ‘bonding’), and getting back into reading big time.

But these muffins truly are quick as a flash- AND they generate hardly any washing up. One big bowl, a small saucepan and a wooden spoon are all you need, and the whole process takes no more than 45 minutes from start to finish. What a dream. Now, this batch turned out a little flat for me, but that’s cause I only added the one egg and lazily didn’t defrost my berries first, but the taste is just lovely. Right my wrongs and you’ll get a lovely rise.

And not ONLY are they super speedy; they’re full of fruity goodness. Berries (frozen, in true speedy style) apple and banana? Surely, but surely one of your five a day..?

So here they are. Ideal for a lunchbox or to take on a last-minute picnic. Just remember to take at least two each..

Berry burst muffins

Ingredients

200g plain flour
75g light muscovado sugar
75g caster sugar
75g butter, melted
2 eggs
2 bananas- ideally very ripe!
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb
Two tbsp natural yoghurt
3 heaped tablespoons berries (I used frozen)
1 apple, peeled and coarsely grated

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4. Line your muffin tin with cases.
2. Pop your butter in a saucepan and melt on a low heat. Meanwhile, mash your bananas in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix in the eggs, yoghurt, sugar, grated apple and the melted butter, and combine.
4. Sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder, and stir thoroughly.
5. Mix in your berries, and spoon into cases about 3/4 full.
6. Bake for around 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Earl Grey and Rose Water Bundt Cake

29 Apr Early grey rose water bundt cake

Just a few weeks ago, newspaper headlines declared we were in drought, and decried the start of a hose pipe ban. ‘But how will I clean my block paved drive way witouth my fully-loaded penis-esque Karscher pressure washer?!’ demanded middle-aged men with middle-aged spread.

Fear not, hose-wealders. As if by magic – or by the power of that lesser known phenomenon, Sod’s Law – at the very mention of a hose pipe ban, the mighty sky retaliated by rounding up a gang of the greyest, densest, meanest clouds around, and heartily encouraging them to piss down upon us all for the best part of ten days.

Exploring a rainy - but still pretty - London

Now, I’m not particularly fond of pounding London’s uneven, puddle-laden pavements in (usually) porous shoes, wrestling with an umbrella determined to show off its jellyfish impression. But what I am fond of is having a perfect excuse to stay indoors, whack the heating up, and get in the kitchen – which is just what this rainy Sunday provided.

Now, don’t judge me, but I only tried Earl Grey tea for the first time a few months ago. (I KNOW). Now, I adore it; I have at least one every day at work and it always feels like a treat. It’s also perfect with a light and lovely piece of cake or a delicate biscuit (not that these are usually in abundance at work – for shame!).

Since my first taste, I’ve wanted to try Earl Grey in a cake, and since I had a bottle of rosewater that I was determined to bake with, too, I decided to bring them both together in a fancy floral experiment using my new bundt tin.

I am thrilled with the result; bundt tins make such a beautiful-looking cake- even before you do anything to the top! In my case, I decorated with my new favourite frosting (that’s a BIG deal, by the way): rose water glaze.

It’s just so gorgeous! I would describe the glaze as like a delicate, fancy version of a krispy kreme glaze – and since it was a bundt cake, I felt like I’d made myself a giant, classy krispy kreme. The best part about a bundt cake is that you use proportionally much less frosting because of the surface area, so it’s great if you don’t enjoy lots of sickly frosting – it’s probably less calories too..? A little like throwing deck chairs off the Titanic, I know, but god loves a trier…

Earl Grey and Rose Water Bundt Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 225 butter
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp essence of rose water
  • 3-4 earl grey tea bags, brewed with 100ml water to form a strong solution
  • 2 tbsp lemon yoghurt (plain will do w/a few drops of lemon juice)
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)/gas mark 4. Grease a bundt tin with butter.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Whisk in the eggs one by one, then add the yoghurt, rosewater and most of tea solution – saving a tablespoon or so for the glaze.
  3. Sift and fold in the flour, baking powder, and saly until thoroughly combined.
  4. Distribute evenly into the bundt tin, and smooth around the top with a spatula.
  5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. NB – the colour on the side you will see in the oven will be lighter of the colour of the ‘top’ when it’s flipped, so don’t worry if it’s not golden brown!

For the rose water glaze

  • 120g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • few drops of the earl grey solution
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl
  2. Add a the rose water and tea, and mix together thoroughly with a fork until you have a reasonably thick glaze.
  3. Once the cake has cooled, use a tablespoon to drizzle the glaze over the cake in lines or criss-crosses to finish.
  4. Serve with a smug smile as you show-off an effortlessly pretty cake!

PS – Do you like my rather sweet table cloth?I I picked up two tea towels reduced to £1.50 in paperchase and thought they were too lovely to wipe the plates with, et voila!

PPS – What other recipes do you find work with with a bundt tin? I’d love to use it more!

Lemon and poppy seed yoghurt muffins

12 Apr Lemon poppyseed muffins

So here we are; spring has sprung! The cherry blossoms are out, the daffodils are saluting the sunshine, and we’ve had the few heady days of sunshine that will undoubtedly be reffered to fondly in hindsight as  ‘summer 2012′.

For me, the spring breeze blows away the cobwebs of winter and draws in the light; light clothing, light colours,  light food, and fluffy-like-a-cloud light cakes.

Gone are my darkest cravings for deep, dark, decadent chocolate cakes (we’ll see how long that lasts) and in comes the wish for something of a more delicate persuasion.

Now I don’t need much excuse to bring out the citrus fruits – in this case, an insanely cheap load of lemons from a local market, and a fancy for a breakfast treat. These muffins are just ideal with a morning tea or coffee; they’re light, yet moist, and not too naughty on the calories either. With yoghurt and lemon in them, I daresay they’re one of your five a day (ahem). At least.

The great thing about these is that they’re so easy you could practically do them while you’re asleep – which is what I usually am for the first two waking hours of every day. Perfect!

Lemon and poppy seed yoghurt muffins

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 260g flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 25g poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g low fat natural yoghurt (full fat is fine too!)
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • juice of 2 lemons, zest of one

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6. Line muffin tins with baking cases.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, seeds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, yoghurt, vegetable oil, zest and juice of the lemons.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon (and a bit of elbow grease!)
  5. Spoon into the muffin cases until only just over half full, and bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes until golden and springy.

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