Before I came to the UK the one thing I wanted Mum to teach me to make was her gingerbread loaf. It is the stuff of dreams, not just because of the sweet ginger flavour but also because it lasts for up to a week without going weird AND it can be frozen. This gingerbread loaf is a total fixture in my mind when I think of my childhood (although Mum isn’t convinced she made it that often), those doorstop thick slabs covered in butter are the answer to almost any problem.

But even though I marched the streets of London with recipe in hand I have never successfully made it. Once a year Mum gets an enraged Skype from me about how I have failed yet again at the fail safe recipe. To be honest the numerous gingerbread loaf disasters were part me and part the UK. I always thought I knew better than the trusty recipe, changing the proportions or on one shocking occasion trying to substitute the milk/vinegar combo for buttermilk (learn from me kids, don’t do it). The UK does have a part to play in this ongoing saga however because the golden syrup over here sucks ass. It is weak watery rubbish that has as much flavour as licking the side of a London telephone box after an autumn shower.

Enter SANZA stage left. Antipodean expats in the UK will all know of SANZA, the website that has all of those treats from home that solve homesickness time and time again (INCLUDING ORIGINAL FLAVOUR BBQ SHAPES!!!!!!!!!!). SANZA offered to send me a box of goodies and to say I leapt at the opportunity was a slight understatement. They might have been slightly surprised at the first thing in my basket, because it wasn’t the Shrewsbury biscuits the Twisties or the Whittakers…it was Chelsea Golden Syrup – time for me to finally conquer the gingerbread loaf.

175 g butter                         
2 tsp baking soda
¾ C sugar                             
2 eggs
1 C golden syrup                  
1 C milk
1 T ground ginger                 
1 T vinegar
2½ C flour                                   
½ tsp cinnamon

  1. Add the vinegar to the milk & let stand to sour.
  2. Cream butter & sugar, add the syrup and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into the mixing bowl.
  4. Gradually beat in the milk & vinegar.
  5. Pour the mixture into 2 lined loaf tins or 1 x 20cm square tin.
  6. Bake at 170°C – loaf tins for approx 50 mins, large tin for approx 1 hr 20 mins.

I was primed and ready. In preparation I put on Dave Dobbyn and ate an entire packet of BBQ Shapes, it was time for me and gingerbread loaf to become friends. This time, I had the right ingredients and I was going to follow the recipe to the letter. No exam had ever been so stressful, no relationship as high risk; but step by (totally easy why the hell had I failed before) step I went through the gingerbread loaf recipe sent over from Mum. And do you know what? I only went and bloody well did it.

My gingerbread loaf was perfect. I feasted off it for the next week and froze two mini-versions to have at a later celebration. Turns out, with SANZA to the rescue and if I actually follow the recipe, all is right in the world.

Oh and since I was on a roll I did something that I had never attempted before, I made lolly cake. I was worried that after 29 years without making it, the NZ Embassy was going to revoke my Kiwi card. Lets just say that it was a tasty few days in the Runawaykiwi house.

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I love baking, but somehow my efforts are never Pinterest worthy. There was that upside down cake that ended up on the bottom of the oven, the pancakes that somehow ended up penis shaped or even the Joy Free Bitch Cake* that was more of a political statement than a baking masterpiece. But I love baking, I enjoy it for the stress release and as a way to show your friends how much you love them. I just wish I could make something pretty.

Enter Anges De Sucre stage left.

I have been following Anges De Sucre on Instagram for a while now, there is nothing like drooling over a three storied maximalist cake to make you happy on your lunch break. But I always thought that level of mastery was unreachable for a casual baker like me…until I saw that Anges De Sucre had started doing cake decorating classes. This was my chance to transform myself into a bad-ass cake dribbling ninja.

So the drunk part.. well by now you lovely readers should know that I am ever so slightly a light weight. Coffee I can drink endlessly, alcohol I turn into a philosophising evangelist who loves everyone and can’t stand up without assistance. I knew things were going to go very well with the cake decorating, the very precise cake decorating, when I arrived at the Kensington bakery and there was a bottle of prosecco waiting for me.

I was going to play it totally cool and just sip away all night. But then when confronted by a naked cake that I was expected to ice without totally ruining it….well let’s just say that dutch courage was needed. And yes I do realise quite how pathetic it is to need courage to ice a cake, but when you have spent the better part of the year stalking the perfect creations on Instagram this is a high stakes scenario.

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Interesting fact for you, when Anges De Sucre asks you to dirty-ice a cake after you down a glass of prosecco you brain will interpret this in some NSFW ways. Turns out this just means filling the cracks in the cake with a kick-ass butter cream icing – yeah it was a different kind of dirty to where my brain went. After dirty icing we covered the two layered chocolaty beast in butter cream and then scraped off most of our hard work to get that half naked look that is so on fleek right now. And also to get the sharp right angle on the top icing so I could dribble chocolate off it later. Then my work of art was put in the fridge for five minutes to harden the fuck up. This cake was going to turn into the Ghetto-Riche Salted Caramel Chocolate cake it needed to be a hard core bad-ass (actually just a bit chilly to make a decorating easier, but…you know what I meant right?).

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After genteelly sipping on more prosecco (its Christmas, overindulgence it totally allowed) it was time to spray-paint pretty much everything gold. Ok so I was supposed to just spray paint the Oreos, Rolos, Maltesers and Macarons that were going to decorate the cake gold, but since when have I ever been that coordinated when tipsy? Let’s just say that by the time I was done with the edible gold spray paint the entire Anges De Sucre shop (where the class takes place) was covered in gold. Literally. The POS machine was looking mighty festive by the time I was done with it.

Now for the chocolate. Turns out this awesome chocolate dribble effect is deceptively simple, and all you need for it is a clear heart, calm mind and a tablespoon. After putting 9 tablespoons of melted chocolate in the middle of the cake it was all pushed out from the centre using the back of the spoon, until like a single girl at a Christmas wedding it was within 1mm of the edge. Then take a moment to steady your nerves (aka, more Prosecco) because you are about to face more pressure than ever before, its time to dribble. Using the back of the spoon you gently create ripples in the chocolate, forcing a smidge over the edge at a time. Little by little you work your way around the cake, stopping in the middle to swear a lot and have a massive freak out when you think your dribbles are too thick, until the entire cake is evenly dribbled.

Then the pressure is really on, before the chocolate hardens you have to do ALL THE DECORATING. With supervision and constant reassurance I started placing my doughnuts and golden treats on the cake; at one point I actually clapped my hands together like a nutter because I was so happy with how it was looking. Decorating the Ghetto-Riche raised some unexpected id/ego/super-ego questions, as I had to make the split second decision whether to put that extra salted-caramel macaron on the cake or in my month. Let’s just say the cake suffered for the whim of the id.

After two hours of prosecco, panicking, Christmas banter and cake-doubts my masterpiece was complete. I was totally in love with the finished product, to the extent that I yelled at a man who jostled me on the tube home because I was so protective of it. Thanks to Anges De Sucre for a brilliant night out, for teaching me to become a cake decorating ninja and for not yelling at me when I covered your shop in edible gold paint. Oh and also thanks to Anges De Sucre for making me the most popular girl in the office…the cake was demolished in under five minutes.

 

*Ok so this was a cake that I made for work, we had been given a talk from a sugar-free expert about how to transform our lives by giving up sugar. I took issue with this and made a three layer cake full of ALL THE SUGAR AND THE FAT and called it the Joy Free Bitch Cake…it was eaten by 9:05am.

Treats from Visit Jersey

So you know, there I was dreaming of an island escape and damn hungry to boot when all of a sudden the island of Jersey offered to send me some treats. Now normally if a stranger offers to send you food you say no and back slowly away (this is London after all). But when that stranger is an island just off the coast of Normandy that is famous for its BLACK BUTTER…you say yes and then cancel all your plans so you can hang out by your front door waiting for it to be delivered.

Jersey Black Butter

So black butter, can we talk about black butter? Holy shit it has changed my life. It looks like a reduced jam type thing, and it tastes like someone managed to reduced the essence of Christmas and put it in a jar. Ok ok the official description is “Peeled and cored apples are cooked down with black treacle, liquorice, cider, brown sugar and spices. This is then cooked slowly over an open gas flame, stirring continuously for several hours.” aka ALL THE GOOD THINGS. In the parcel was an entire jar of the stuff, I totally intended to do some baking but have eaten half of the damn jar by putting it on crackers with some mature cheddar. But I totally got away with not baking since Jersey also introduced me to the best brownies I have ever eaten.

Stop reading this post right now and go and order these brownies: http://www.zoes-kitchen.com/products/brownie-tray

I’ll wait.

Jersey Zoes Kitchen Brownies

Seriously those Zoes kitchen brownie bites are like crack. Best I can describe is that they are halfway between brownies and fudge. They have this hidden flavour that just made me weak at the knees. My original intention was to share. This did not happen. I ate the entire box in two days.

Visit Jersey Salted Caramel Sauce

After how quickly I got through the sweet treats (there was also a bag of fudge!) I have made an awesome plan for some of the other goodies: Christmas. The salted caramel sauce I think needs to be part of some sort of decadent Christmas Cocktail, and the G’lee d’Jerri I think HAS to be saved for a roast pork. Man I can’t wait for Christmas.

Thank you so much Visit Jersey for my happy little bundle of treats.
This post is part of the Visit Jersey campaign.

Home made after dinner mints

Ok so what the fuck do you do when you have gluten free and dairy free people over for dinner and you want a little snaffle to go with after dinner drinks? After trawling Pinterest for desserts I almost pulled my hair out trying to find something that didn’t involve a combination of coconut oil, cashew nuts and nightmares. Then a glorious pattern caught my eye, home-made after dinner mints it had to be.

I wish I could call this an actual recipe… but all you need to do is choose your chocolate (I went as dark as possible because of the aforementioned dairy free issue) then melt it in a bain marie, or microwave if you feel like living on the edge. Then take your fresh mint leaves and dip them round end first into the chocolate.

A couple of things that I learned in the process, leave this as late as possible i.e. just before your guests arrive. The longer your mint is off the branch the more it will wilt, so put this together just before you get the party started and then pop them in the fridge.

Also be patient with the chocolate, once you have melted it it will be hot (don’t you roll your eyes at me) so just chill out and wait till it has cooled right down to room temperature before you get your dip on otherwise you will scald the leaves. Oh and when you are popping them off the baking sheet don’t grab them by the leafy tops, just turn the baking sheet upside down and push on the chocolate part and they will leap for freedom.

The finished after dinner mints were the perfect refreshing but decadent snaffle, and went down a treat served with sloe gin over ice.

Only complication? I don’t like mint.