Some eggxtremely valuable advice

Sometimes when we start addressing our mental health issues, we’re able to pinpoint the little things we may do ourselves that aren’t necessarily helping us to recover.

A biggy for me is that I put faaaaar too much pressure on myself. In every sense. Socially, academically, physically. So, when I don’t live up to that pressure, it’s as if I look for someone to blame. But, I wouldn’t dare blame anyone else for what I’m going through, so the only person left to blame is me.

With depression and anxiety, I experience a lot of internal noise. I think about what I have to do, worry all the time I’m not doing it, once I am doing it I don’t feel I’m doing enough, and the spiral of negative thoughts continue and continue until it feels as if my head will explode.

… and, again, that could be about anything and everything. Revision… replying to messages… work…

I feel like I should be able to just pull myself together. Like up until now I simply haven’t worked hard enough to shake off the depression, and I should just be able to fix myself. I think of it as if it’s the easiest thing to do, and that I’m the problem- that maybe I’m lazy or don’t want it enough- but the truth is (and it’s very hard for me to recognise sometimes, but The Blurt Foundation round it up pretty damn nicely):

Living with depression is hard work. Every single day we get up and do our best to live our lives alongside an illness which is determined to drag us down. 

Regardless of what our brains may tell us, we’re achieving so much simply by carrying on. We should be proud of ourselves, rather than being ashamed.

Sometimes I just need a shake, to remember that this is an illness. As with any illness, the symptoms we suffer with depression and anxiety are not our fault, and we shouldn’t self-blame or beat ourselves up. THAT lets the depression win.

Again, *disclaimer*: I’m terrible at- what the Black Eyed Peas sing in their 2003 banger-  ‘practising what I preach’.

Trying to have self-compassion is really, really bloody hard, especially when you can’t help but feel unworthy of it. The way I try to look at it now is to treat myself like I would treat my best friend. If they were in my position, I wouldn’t shame them, I definitely wouldn’t expect them to snap out of it and fix themselves in the click of a finger, nor would I get angry at them or think they’re horrible.

So, what’s the answer? The million-pound question. Well, maybe there isn’t an answer as such, but something you can- and should- do is forgive yourself. Or, at least, try to. No one is perfect, whether they suffer a mental illness or not. Give yourself a well-needed break and remember that Blurt Foundation wisdom: you should be proud, not ashamed of what you’re dealing with.  You’re doing bloomin’ marvellously.

 

Creme Egg Cupcakes 

Cupcakes:

  • 4 tbsp Water (boiling)
  • 40g Cocoa powder
  • 3 Eggs
  • 175g Butter (unsalted) (softened)
  • 165g Unrefined golden caster sugar
  • 115g (gluten-free) Self-raising white flour
  • 1 tsp Baking powder (rounded)
  • 6 creme eggs (frozen until needed, then halved)
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cases. Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl, pour in the boiling water and mix into a thick paste. Add the remaining cake ingredients and mix with an electric hand whisk (or beat with a wooden spoon).
  2. Divide 2/3 of the mixture between the 12 paper cases. Place half a crème egg in each, then cover with the remaining mixture. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C (400°F, Gas mark 6) for about 15 minutes until well risen and springy to the touch. Cool in the cases on a wire rack.

 

Icing:

Fondant 

  • 165g Golden syrup
  • 90g Softened butter
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1tsp Vanilla
  • 375g Icing sugar
  • Yellow food colouring

Buttercream 

  • 100g Butter
  • 300g Icing sugar
  • 1tsp Vanilla
  • Splash of milk
  1. Mix together the butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt together for the fondant until the mixture becomes pale(ish)
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar into the mix to create a thick fondant (you might not need all the icing sugar), then use enough yellow colouring to create a nice yolk colour, set aside
  3. Mix together your butter and icing sugar together to create your buttercream, add a splash of milk & the vanilla and beat on a high speed to get lots of air into your buttercream, giving you a light fluffy frosting.
  4. Use both the icings to decorate in the design of an egg (or however you wish!)
  5. Use extra creme eggs for decoration

 

 

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Always look on the bright slice of life

Happy 2018! Or, should I say, Happy 20-GREAT-een!

Many people set themselves New Year’s resolutions, wanting to capitalise on the opportunity to try new things, improve on current things, but ultimately hoping the year starts off the best it can.

So, when we set our resolutions with our expectations too high, we can leave ourselves feeling failures. When you suffer with depression, this kind of failure can trigger a spiral of negative thoughts about ourselves, and we feel more deflated than ever.

That’s why this year my resolutions, or more ‘promises to myself for 2018’, are solely based around self-care, and include a few simple bits of guidance to myself, making sure I approach each ‘resolution’ positively and, importantly, without the pressure.

EXERCISE

Mid-way through December 2017 I saw this:

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Now, it’s said that ‘curiosity killed the cat’, and there was a thought of mine that ‘running may kill the Meg’. BUT, my overriding thought was…

‘Hey, I could promote better mental health, influence people to take better care of themselves, spread awareness and understanding of depression and anxiety- AND all the while get myself in a better physical and mental state’.

… So I signed up, and, for over 2 weeks now, I’ve plagued social media platforms with selfies (classic Meg) and videos of my running journey.

And you know what? I’ve loved every bloomin’ minute.

This hasn’t always been my mindset. Gosh, no. Having suffered with depression since age 16, I would be a millionaire- well, out of my overdraft- for all the times a doctor has told me the benefits of physical exercise on your mental health. But that wasn’t me, no. I hated exercise. I was that girl that would go to the gym regularly for a month, lose interest, and pay for 3 extra months without visiting, before finally admitting defeat and cancelling my membership. It’s because of this that I coined the label of ‘exercisephobe’, which I really think should be considered an entry into the English Dictionary at some point.

With that self-assigned title, and knowing how much of a flake I am at sticking to ANYTHING, I did worry I wouldn’t be able to complete #REDJanuary. Was I setting myself  up for a fall? As it turns out, no, I wasn’t. The beauty of #REDJanuary lies in its name: ‘Run EveryDay January‘. Running everyday, and not just 2 or 3 times a week, makes it a commitment you cannot avoid or ‘blow off’ until another day. Its also shown me how quickly your body can adapt to exercise. On Day 1, I couldn’t run 2 minutes without needing a break/walk. Maybe it was the NYE hangover or the- frankly hideous- amount of pigs and blankets I devoured over Christmas, but I felt so unfit. 2 weeks on, I can go for 15-20 minute runs. Yes, I’m knackered afterwards, but more importantly I am so, so proud of myself. That feeling is something that can really escape you when you’re going through dark times, so to feel it again genuinely means the absolute world.

So, here’s to the rest of #REDJanuary, and to the 5k I plan to take part in next week! You really, really can surprise yourself.

 

You can visit my JustGiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/meg-manganaro2017

 

SLEEP

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Those suffering from a mental illness can have their sleeping patterns affected in different ways. You can experience insomnia, feeling you’re unable to switch-off from your thought processes. When this happens, it is a very dark and lonely place to be. Conversely, you can find yourself more tired than usual, and therefore needing more sleep than your ‘norm’.

Either way, disturbed sleep can have a massive knock-on effect to your mood and functionality. Because of the power a good night’s sleep can have, it is really worthwhile practicing good sleep hygiene.

During my days as a student, I can admit I definitely neglected the importance of sleep. Now, however, I’ve adopted my very own toolkit:

  • Screens away an 30 mins/1 hour before bed. Exposure to light in the late evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and lead us to prefer later sleep times. So, pop that laptop, TV or mobile phone away for the last part of your evening- Instagram can wait until tomorrow.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. I now swap my normal cuppa tea for a herbal one, or even a hot chocolate when it reaches 4/6 hours before my desired bedtime.
  • Keep to a general bedtime. 
  • Use sleep-inducing fragrances. I use a lavender spray over my bed linen, and ‘Sleepy’ body lotion from Lush, just for that extra bit of snooziness. Zzzzz.
  • Herbal tablets. I occasionally use Kalms Night tablets when I’m experiencing a period of sleep deprivation, just to help me get back on track and sleepy around my desired bedtime.
  • De-stressing activities. Have a bath, read a book. Chill.

 

As with any symptoms you might experience as a result of mental illness, keep your doctor in the loop. I’m lucky enough to have a lovely doctor, who clearly cares a lot about my wellbeing, and now also- in my eyes, at least- she’s a sleep guru.

 

ALCOHOL

A few months ago I wouldn’t want to admit that sometimes I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. However, I also made a pact to myself not too long ago to be open and honest about as much as I can- because it really is liberating and healing.

I have occasionally used alcohol as a way to self-sabotage. It is something I can abuse, so that I feel more relaxed, or even to ‘numb’ myself. Equally, I have sometimes found that alcohol relaxes me in social situations, and when enjoying myself I can sometimes mistake that more alcohol equates to a better time.

The difficulty is that doing so, hurting myself in this way, feeds into my depression. On nights out, detrimental thoughts I have internalised can emerge, such as feelings that I’m undeserving of friends. This obviously affects the way I’m feeling, and no doubt those whom I am with, who have no idea why all of sudden I may have changed in mood. I think we can all agree, that is no fun for anyone.

As a response to this, I have decided to treat alcohol with a great deal more care in 2018, and beyond. I have limited my drinking to weekends and social occasions, and already feel better for doing so.

It’s far from the end of addressing my drinking behaviour, but it’s most definitely a steady and positive step in the right direction!

 

BASICALLY… BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Before experiencing depression to the severity I have, I never realised it could be such a triumph to just get up in the morning. But, it is.

The most simple of everyday tasks can, and should, be celebrated. Looking after yourself should be celebrated. Fighting for those better days in the future- that WILL come, you cannot lose sight of that- should be celebrated, especially when depression has sapped you of your self-belief.

I know all too well that saying this stuff is far, far easier than believing it, let alone practicing it. If, like me, you struggle to be kind to yourself, here’s a great place to start: An open letter to anyone currently struggling with their mental health. Equally, if you know someone suffering with depression or just simply want to understand more about it, this is a super helpful insight.

Other, frankly soul-warming, resources worth taking a peek at include:

Why we need to celebrate small act of ‘boring self-care’

Why surviving deserves more credit than we give it

How to be a friend to ourselves

Or, if you fancy self-care you can literally get your hands on, I could not praise this book enough. The Blurt Foundation has always spoken to me in the most raw, understanding way- and now they have a book! The reviews speak for themselves.

 

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And if, or when, you’re ready to put that self-care into motion: when you wake up tomorrow, do what I plan to do. Tell yourself just 4 words:

‘You are good enough.’

Because, you really are.

 

From ingredients for my happy and healthy 2018, to ingredients for this week’s bake:  Lemon & Elderflower Marble Cake 

 

 

With a showstopper of a cake comes a lot of work, so I baked over 2 days. On the first I made the lemon curd and the macaroons, and stored them until the following day, but it is completely up to you how you tackle it…

LEMON CURD
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 large egg
90g caster sugar 
55g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
¾ tsp cornflour 

Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat.

Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes. Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to whisk.

After that, remove it from the heat. Now pour the lemon curd into hot, sterilised jar(s)*, and seal while it is still hot. Allow to cool and set before using it later to sandwich your cake.

Any leftover curd will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.

* To sterislise jars, they should be washed in mild soapy water, rinsed and dried and heated in a medium oven for 5 minutes.

 

ROSEWATER & WHITE CHOCOLATE MACAROONS
Makes approx. 50

180g ground almonds 
175g icing Sugar  
4 egg whites 
½ tsp rosewater 
3 Drops pink food colouring 
50ml water 
160g caster sugar 
150g white chocolate 
75g double cream 

Mix the ground almonds in a food processor for 30 seconds and then sift to ensure they’re as fine as possible. Sift the icing sugar into the ground almonds.

Measure 60g of egg whites and stir in to the almonds and icing sugar along with the rose water extract and colouring to make a thick paste.

Place the water and the golden caster sugar into a small saucepan and heat. Bring to the boil and cook until the temperature reaches 118°C. Do not over stir or the syrup will crystallise. Remove from the heat.

Place the remaining egg whites in a bowl. Whisk into soft peaks, gradually adding the sugar syrup. Whisk on high until the mixture has thickened and stands in firm peaks. Fold the mixture into the ground almonds.

Heat oven to 170°C (fan 150°C, gas mark 3). Line three baking sheets with baking parchment and pipe your mixture in rounds roughly the size of a 10p piece (or, for a cleaner finish, I used a silicon macaroon mould). Leave for 30 minutes at room temperature before baking.

 

Bake for 10 minutes then cover with baking parchment and bake for a further 4-5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Place the cream and white chocolate in a small saucepan and heat until melted and smooth. Leave to cool and then use to sandwich your macaroons together.

Store in an airtight container.

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CAKE
250g butter
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs
zest of 2 lemons
350g (gluten-free) self raising flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp elderflower cordial 

DRIZZLE: 
juice of 3 lemons
200 g icing sugar
2 ½ tbsp elderflower cordial

BUTTERCREAM 
100g butter
250g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp elderflower cordial 

Preheat your oven to 180C/ gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.

Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each, and then lemon zest, beating again. Sift the flour and the salt together and then fold them into the mixture. Once combined, add the cordial and mix again.

Divide the batter between your tins as evenly as you can, and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the cakes are risen, golden, and firm.

While the cakes are baking, make the drizzle. Put the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly, and then add the cordial.

Immediately after you take the cakes out of the oven, puncture all over with a skewer or a fork, and pour the syrup over the cakes while they are still warm. It will seem like there is too much liquid, but the cakes will eventually drink it up.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, remove them from the tins. To make the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric whisk until it’s completely soft. Sift the icing sugar over the butter, then add the cordial, and beat. Add the lemon zest and blend again.

Up-end one cake on a plate and spread lemon curd over the surface. Repeat with the buttercream (be careful at this point to leave enough buttercream to cover the cake with a thin layer of icing, known as a crumb coat), then top with the remaining cake. Now the cakes are sandwiched together, cover completely with the remaining buttercream.

 

MARBLE FONDANT  

Assortment of coloured royal icings  

-OR- 

1 pack of white royal icing 

Assortment of food colourings 

If you have bought white royal icing, tear into several chunks. To dye, use a few drops of your desired food colouring and knead.

Press pieces of coloured fondant icing/roll-out icing together. Knead briefly to blur the colours.

Dust your worksurface and rolling pin with icing sugar then roll out the icing.

Carefully transfer to your cake, smooth down the surface starting at the top then trim the base with a small sharp knife.

See how it’s done right here: How to make marble fondant

 

A great way to further decorate your cake while attaching your macaroons is with…

WHITE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
100g unsalted butter
¼ tsp vanilla extract
250g/1lb 10oz icing sugar
50g/5½oz white chocolate, melted 

Cream the butter, vanilla and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the melted chocolate.

 

 

 

Decorate as desired; I used an edible glitter spray to add that little bit of extra sparkle!

 

Until next time,

Meg xoxo

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Keep on rollin’

I’m back!

Again, it’s been a while (sorry). So, full disclosure: I am a flake. I’m worse than a 99 on your Mr Whippy- forever putting my mind to something and not seeing it through or making plans to do something and cancelling later. We’re all guilty of doing this, but honestly I am almost criminally liable of it (#LawBants)

So a bit of a background- and a big step to admit- but I’ve suffered with depression since my diagnosis at 16, and more recently struggled with anxiety too. It’s majorly affected my life in a manner of ways- socially, academically- and generally can make me feel like I’ve lost my ‘Meg-ness’. With massive help from family and my pals, I’m currently in the process of pulling myself back together from yet another knock, and that’s where this blog and baking come in (yes, I promise I’ll talk about cake soon) …

I’m a big fan of The Blurt Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping those with depression. If you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to check it out whether on Instagram, Twitter or at blurtitout.org. There’s loads of articles and doodles that help to learn more about depression, helpful techniques and just make you feel a little more ‘human’. A fabulous project they’ve launched is all about self care, basically nurturing yourself and showing yourself some well-deserved kindness. So, as part of my very own Mango-tailored self care I am taking to baking at least once a week. I’ve always thought of baking as a type of therapy, something that truly relaxes me. I introduce the first of my Bake Off extravaganza, or if you like a hashtag, #MegsGBBOChallenge…

WEEK 1:

Chocolate Mini Rolls

Yes, for my first bake I attempted the technical challenge, perhaps not the most relaxing of bakes… But, despite the mess and fiddliness, I was super happy with the turn-out. As one of my brother’s childhood favourites, we always had mini rolls in the house while growing up, so to make them myself was fab- and they actually tasted like the real deal! Absolutely scrummy, even if a little ‘rustic’ in their aesthetic- but hey, who likes perfect?!

 

Makes 12

Ingredients:

60g cocoa powder

30g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp boiling water

6 large eggs, separated

150g caster sugar

 

For the filling

150g butter, softened

300g icing sugar

1 tsp peppermint essence

 

To finish

200g plain chocolate, 70% cocoa solids

200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

 

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Grease two, 30cm x 20cm Swiss roll tins with butter. Line the base of each tin with a piece of greased greaseproof paper.

Step 2 – Sieve the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add the butter, vanilla extract and boiling water and mix together. Set aside.

Step 3 – Whisk 100g of the caster sugar and egg yolks together until light, thick and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Step 4 – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Step 5 – Beat one third of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix. Using a large metal spoon, fold the remaining egg whites through the mixture.

Step 6 – Divide the mixture between the two lined tins and level out. Bake for 12 – 18 minutes.

Step 7 – Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks. Cover the tins with a damp tea towel and leave to cool completely.

Step 8 – For the filling, beat the butter until soft and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the peppermint essence and continue beating until white, soft and fluffy.

Step 9 – Turn the cakes upside down onto 2 sheets of greaseproof paper and peel off the baking paper. Turn the cakes so that the short end is facing you. Score a line 4cm in on both short ends of both cakes. Spread the peppermint cream over the top and towards the edges.

Step 10 – Starting from the front short edge, roll up the cake, stopping in the middle. Repeat the same from the back until both rolls meet in the middle. Cut down the centre between the rolls.

Step 11 – Repeat with the remaining sponge, so you have four rolls. Trim the ends and cut each roll into three so you end up with twelve mini rolls.

Step 12 – Place the rolls, seam side down on a cooling rack and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

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Step 13 – To finish, melt the plain and milk chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Place the cooling rack over a baking tin (to catch the chocolate) and dip, spread or pour the chocolate over each mini roll to coat. Leave to set.

My tip: dip each end of the roll into the chocolate before placing back onto the cooling rack and spooning over the chocolate to coat the top and sides

Step 14 – Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Spoon into a small disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe fine stripes across the width of the mini rolls, then leave to set.

… And how better to taste-test your bake, than while watching #GBBO itself!

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Happy baking!

See you next week xoxo

Images from my Instagram (megmanganaro)

Recipe ‘Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls’ 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mini Cheeseburger Cakes

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This was such a fun bake. It was my flatmate’s birthday and, as you can guess, he liked burgers. As students, it was only right that a bottle of vodka was involved in the making of these cakes… But just as a make-shift rolling pin to roll out the fondant icing ‘cheese’! As well as the ‘cheese’, there’s a vanilla sponge ‘bun’, a chocolate brownie ‘burger’ and vanilla buttercream ‘mayo’. The great part about this is that you can make all the different elements up as and when you want. I actually made the brownies the night before and stored them in an airtight container before making the other elements the next day and assembling. They definitely looked the part, and went down a treat too!

Vanilla Sponge Bun

This is just your normal vanilla cupcake, which I then cut in half to make into a bun.

110g/4oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g/4oz self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat oven to180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 12-hole cupcake tray. Grease it well so that the cake won’t stick!

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into each of the holes of the tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, cut each of the cupcakes in half to create the mini buns!

Brownie Burger

For this part of the bake I made a tray bake of brownies and, once cooled, simply used a small cookie cutter to create burgers 🙂

275g (10oz) butter, softened

375g (13oz) caster sugar

4 large eggs

75g (3oz) cocoa powder

100g (4oz) self-raising flour

100g (4oz) plain chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/gas 4. Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to fit the base and sides of the tin. Grease the tin and then line it with the paper, pushing it neatly into the corners.

Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand-held electric mixer until evenly blended.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to remove all of it. Spread the mixture gently to the corners of the tin and level the surface with the back of the spatula.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.Cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the mixture is browning too much.

Allow to cool in the tin. Once cooled, turn out the brownies and cut into 12 small rounds (or ‘burgers’!) using a cookie cutter.

Vanilla Buttercream Mayo

175 g butter (at room temperature), cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk
350 g icing sugar, sifted

Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency.

Lastly, assembling the burgers…

Spread a small amount of icing on each of the vanilla sponge halves

Place a brownie burger on half of the vanilla sponges

Place a small dot of buttercream on top of the brownie (this will be to hold the fondant ‘cheese’ in place)

Roll out the yellow fondant icing (supermarket bought!) and cut into small squares to resemble slices of cheese. Place one on top of each of the brownies

Place the rest of the sponge halves on top, to create your burger!

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Gluten and Dairy-free Lemon & Poppyseed Traybake

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It’s been a while but I’m back and still baking FODMAP friendly delights… and this is no exception! Such a light, fluffy sponge and an icing to die for (honestly, I could have eaten a whole bowl of it). The original recipe comes from the queen of baking, Mary Berry. I adjusted it so that it was suitable for the FODMAP diet, i.e. so that I could scoff it all 🙂

Makes 16 squares

SPONGE

2 lemons
225 g Vitalite (or another dairy-free substitute)
225 g caster sugar
275 g  gluten-free self-raising flour
2 level tsp gluten-free baking powder
4 eggs
4 tbsp lactose-free milk
25 g poppy seeds

ICING

3 tbsp lemon juice, approximately
225 g icing sugar, sifted

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. Grease and line a 30 x 23 x 4cm (12″ x 9″ x 1 1⁄2″) traybake tin or roasting tin with greased parchment paper.

Using a zester remove the zest from one lemon and set aside for garnish. Finely grate the rind from the other lemon. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl, add the grated lemon rind and beat well by hand or with an electric hand whisk for about 2 minutes until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake is shrinking from the sides of the tin and springs back when pressed in the centre with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the tin. Once cool turn out and remove paper.

For the icing, mix together the lemon juice, sieved icing sugar and mint to give a coating consistency. Spread out evenly over the cake sprinkle with reserved lemon zest and leave to set.

Cut into squares to serve.

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Chocolate Cake with a Caramel filling and Chocolate Ganache

I love to bake so I don’t really need a reason to grab a wooden spoon and bake a few treats. However, this weekend was an special exception as it was my Grandad’s 80th birthday celebrations, so the thinking cap went on and ingredients were gathered to make a feast of cakes! So here’s one of the few bakes I did, a chocoholic’s delight: Chocolate and Caramel cake…

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Cake:

35g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100ml boiling water
2  eggs
185g light muscovado sugar
90ml vegetable oil
100g self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 160 degrees
Grease and line 2 sandwich tins
Pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder and whisk so there are no lumps
Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk again until smooth
Leave this mixture to the side to cool
Using an electric whisk, combine the eggs, sugar and vegetable oil
Fold in the flour, followed by the cocoa mixture
Split the mixture between the sandwich tins and bake for 25-30 minutes
*While the cake is cooking, you can make the caramel filling (recipe below!)*
Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in its tin, before turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling

Caramel filling:

125g light soft brown sugar
75ml double cream
70g butter
1/4 tsp salt

Heat the sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves 
Allow it to bubble for a few minutes (be careful it doesn’t burn), then remove for the heat and allow to cool completely
Beat the butter, then add the cooled caramel mixture and mix until combined
Leave to chill in the fridge until it is needed

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Chocolate Ganache:

115g dark chocolate
65g double cream 

Gently heat the cream in a pan, take off the heat when it starts to simmer
Pour the heated cream over the chocolate
Leave for a minute for the chocolate to melt, then stir until it is all melted and becomes smooth and glossy

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Once cooled, remove the cake from the sandwich tins
Spread the caramel icing on one of the halves, then sandwich together with the other
Pour the ganaches over the cake so that is drips down the sides, use a spatula to make sure it is distributed fairly evenly

Decorate as you wish! I used small pieces of honeycomb. 

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Oreo Cookie, Lemon Drizzle and Coffee cupcakes completed the baking bonanza. Recipes to follow in my next few posts!

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Bake Off Fever!

Chocolate and Vanilla Swiss Roll

Mini Strawberry Cakes

So ‘Great British Bake Off’ hit our screens again this week! I don’t know whether it was the sight of that glorious tent full of new eager contestants or the good cop/bad cop duo of Paul and Mary, but after just one episode of the new series I found myself baking all day yesterday. Welcome back Bake Off fever!

Featured this week were signature mini bakes and that fiddly swiss roll! With the inspiration I set to work to creating my own version of these bakes (on a much lazier scale- it was Sunday after all!)

Below are my mini strawberry cakes. Dairy free but still delicious, they are simply fairy cake sponges topped with a strawberry icing- made from pureed strawberries with icing sugar. Happy to say they went down a treat with all ages, sharing them out between my dad as well as the kids I babysit. Definitely something I’ll whip up again.

With the leftover cake mix, I crushed some Lindt chocolate to make a scrummy choccy muffin. A welcomed treat for my boyfriend working crazy hours this week.

Oddly enough, I’d never baked a swiss roll before. My plain sponge with a chocolate and vanilla butttercream filling was an experiment to say the least! Well, it might not have the perfect swirl or fancy decor, but for a first attempt, I’ll take it. Fortunately I’m assured it tastes much better than it looks- phew!

Seeing as this first episode had me taking over the kitchen for the day, I can only imagine what GBBO inspired delights I’ll be baking next week!

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