Christmas Apple, Orange and Cinnamon Jelly

This is one of my favourite Christmas recipes. It has a light but warming flavour – perfect for the festive season!

To Make Apple, Orange and Cinnamon Jelly:

1 kg cooking apples

4 oranges

1kg caster sugar

1   1/2 litres water

4 cinnamon sticks

Chop the fruit roughly without peeling and add the cinnamon sticks and water. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Strain through a muslin bag. Add the sugar to the remaining liquid and take back to the heat. Heat gently until the sugar is melted, stirring all the time. Then bring to the boil and boil rapidly without touching until it reaches setting point. The jelly can be sieved again to remove any scum and poured into sterilised jars. This amount filled 6 small jars.

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How to make a perfect sponge

How to

A sponge is one of the most basic cakes you can make, with few ingredients and yet it’s something which can be incredibly difficult to get right! I’ve tried and tested many recipes and tips and here are my favourite tips for a perfect bake…

  • Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature, preferably slightly warm.
  • Weigh your ingredients accurately, baking is a science and slight changes can affect the result.
  • Heat your oven in advance and check that the temperature is correct with an oven thermometer. Many ovens are not accurate and too hot or too cool an oven can affect the end result dramatically. Sponges are usually baked at 160c.
  • Use the freshest, free range eggs for a light sponge and good quality butter will give a great flavour.
  • Line the tin/s with non-stick baking paper.

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When following a recipe use the ingredients weight as a guide. Start by weighing the eggs in the recipe (weigh in their shells) and match the other ingredients to this. The eggs, sugar, butter and flour should all weigh equivalent amounts.

For a 20cm (8”) sponge you will need 5 eggs (weighing 50g each) , 250g Butter, 250g Caster Sugar, 250g Self-Raising Flour. Therefore, when you weigh the eggs, you will match the amounts to this. The amount of 250g has been given as a guide for the amount of mixture you will need. If the eggs weigh 265g the flour, butter and sugar should be 265g too and the cake will be very slightly larger. If the eggs weigh slightly less, for example 235g, you could add milk if you want to make up the amount to 250g.

Beat the sugar and butter together well until they are pale and creamy;

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl;

Whisk the flour with a hand whisk to loosen and add air. I never sieve my flour as I feel it compacts when it falls;

I never add baking powder as I’ve found it can make the cake dry;

There are two methods for mixing all the ingredients together and I’ve found that both work well –

  1. Add the beaten eggs very slowly to the beaten sugar and butter mix. Mix well, a little at a time. If the eggs are slightly warm they won’t curdle and a tip to help this is to put the eggs, in their shells in a bowl of warm water before starting the recipe. Then carefully fold in the flour.
  2. Add the beaten eggs and the flour to the beaten sugar and butter and beat everything together well for only one minute.
  • Be careful not to overbeat with either method.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared tin/s. The sponge can be baked in one tin or divided between two tins. One 20cm (8”) sponge should take approximately 50 minutes to bake, if the mixture is divided the cakes will take about twenty minutes.

  • Never open the oven until at least ¾ of the way through baking a sponge. Opening the door too early can cause the cake to collapse. The sponge will be baked when it is golden brown and starting to shrink away from the sides of the tin. A clean skewer stuck into the cake will come out clean – no sticky mixture attached. Keep an eye on the cake near to the end of the baking time and take it out of the oven immediately it is ready.

Leave the cake for two to three minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  If you want to slice the cake in half horizontally to fill, you will need to leave it for at least two hours for the crumb to set otherwise it will just crumble.

Some more tips for sponges

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Beetroot and Orange Chutney

This recipe is an adaptation from a Beetroot and Orange Relish recipe by Thane Prince in her book ‘Jams & Chutneys’. I’ve called it Chutney as it is much thicker and chunkier than her original recipe which calls for the beetroot to be grated. It makes a delicious accompaniment to any cold dish, particularly over Christmas – a change from the usual pickled beetroot.The orange brings a lovely fruity flavour to the mix to enhance the beetroot and the spices add a slight kick, although you could omit these if you prefer.

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Beetroot and Orange Chutney



1 kg Beetroot

4 Large Oranges

2 Large Onions

500g Granulated Sugar

250ml Red Wine Vinegar

1 teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Ground Chilli


Peel beetroot and chop into small pieces,

Grate the orange zest (use the grater – not zester as you need larger pieces). Cut away all the white pith and cut the oranges into small chunks, discarding any pips.

Chop the onions finely.

Add everything to a large, heavy bottomed pan. Bring gradually to a boil, stirring well to dissolve all the sugar. Boil for a few minutes then reduce to a low simmer. The mixture will take about 1 ½ hours to thicken and it will need occasional stirring to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Depending on the amount of juice that was in the oranges, the mixture may need a little more liquid added and some more red wine vinegar or orange juice can be added if it looks too thick as its cooking.

The beetroot should be well cooked and softened but still remain in chunks and the whole mixture should be nice and thick (or to your own taste). Pour into sterilised jars, seal and label.

Another of my favourite things to make at Christmas is Cranberry Relish and oranges work really well with cranberries too. Here is a recipe for Cranberry, Orange and Port Relish.


Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Blissfully Scrumptious

I love to use fresh, home grown produce and recently I’ve had lots of apples to use. Some of my other baking plans have had to be put on hold while I make everything appley. This week I used up lots of mixed apples to make an apple sauce, a lovely apple syrup and a moist and sticky apple and cinnamon cake.
I started with a bag of apples and peeled, cored and chopped them roughly and then added them to a pan with enough water to cover them. I cooked them till they were soft and then strained off the liquid. The remaining pulp just needed a little sugar added to it to make apple sauce to store in the fridge. I measured the remaining liquid and added 1/2 the equivalent in sugar – my liquid was 400ml so I added 200g sugar. I brought this mixture to a boil in a pan, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then let it boil rapidly until it started to thicken. This makes a really gorgeous apple syrup which can be used to drizzle over cakes, desserts or ice cream or added to a drink. If you let it thicken a little more it will become a jelly once set.
I drizzled my apple syrup over a warm apple and cinnamon cake as it came out of the oven:)
Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Apple and Cinnamon Cake


140g Butter, softened

140g Soft Brown Sugar

2 medium Eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons Cinnamon (plus, 2 more teaspoons for the topping)

250g Self Raising Flour

3 small eating apples (or 2 medium), grated

(2 tablespoons Demerara sugar for the topping)


Pre heat the oven to 170c and prepare a loaf tin.

Beat the soft brown sugar and butter together and add the beaten egg slowly. Fold in the flour and cinnamon and finally, the apple. Pour into the prepared tin. Mix the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon for the topping together well with the Demerara sugar and spread this over the top of the cake. Bake for between 40 – 50 minutes approximately. (Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean.)

The cake will be golden brown with a crunchy topping and moist inside. It keeps well with the flavour improving if its left a day or two. However, I couldn’t resist serving it straight from the oven, drizzled with apple syrup and a large dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

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Egg Free Lemon Curd

I love home made lemon curd. Its been a recent revelation for me as I’d never realised quite how good it is, having only ever tried shop bought varieties. I love lemon cakes and home made lemon curd is the perfect filling along with lashings of lemon buttercream. However, I’ve had a dilemma with making this type of cake for a celebration as lemon curd can only stay safely out of the fridge for a short time due to the eggs in it. Creating a celebration cake takes time due to the decoration and it may be sitting around at an event all day so using freshly made lemon curd is not an option. This is my recipe for egg free lemon curd which is completely safe to use to fill a celebration cake. It tastes delicious and has the same consistency as traditional lemon curd so works perfectly as a filling. I like to make two sponges (or cut one in half to create two layers) with lemon zest in, then drizzle a lemon syrup over them when they come out of the oven (made with lemon juice and sugar). I then fill with my lemon curd and lemon buttercream. This makes the most scrummy, moist lemon cake and will keep well if used as a celebration cake and decorated.

Egg Free Lemon Curd


50g Lemon juice

50g Caster sugar

50g Butter

50g Golden syrup

1 tablespoon Cornflour


Heat the lemon juice and caster sugar in a pan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter and syrup and continue to stir over the heat, so that everything is melted and combined. Bring to the boil for a minute or two and then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Whisk in the cornflour. Return to a gentle heat and allow the cornflour to cook, stirring continuously. The mixture will thicken in a few minutes and change to a clearer colour. Leave to cool before using on a cake or slathering on toast.

Egg Free Lemon Curd

Egg Free Lemon Curd

Lemon Celebration Cake

Lemon Celebration Cake

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Gluten Free Creme Brulee Cupcakes

I’ve lost my way a little in my plan to bake along with The Great British Bake Off after attempting Crème Brulees which turned out to be a complete disaster. I read the recipe really carefully and all started off well as I thought ‘how difficult can this be?’ My little ramekins went into the oven with beautiful creamy custard with just the perfect wobble. I was confident. What I took out of the oven were ramekins of curdled scrambled egg. I have no idea what went wrong and it was all very disappointing but I haven’t attempted to try again since. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or ingredients to hand usually to keep trying the bakes until they are perfect so in order to catch up a bit and maybe bake something edible I decided to try some Crème Brulee Cupcakes. I’ve made them gluten free as last week the bakers attempted pitta’s without gluten, cakes without sugar and ice cream without dairy. I’m not too sure about cakes without sugar but gluten free cakes are delicious so here is my recipe for Crème Brulee Cupcakes. (Much easier than Crème Brulees!)

Crème Brulee Cupcakes

Ingredients for the cakes:-

120g Soft Brown Sugar

120g Softened Butter

120g Gluten Free Flour (I use Doves Farm)

1 Teaspoon Gluten Free Baking Powder

2 Medium Eggs, beaten well

1 – 2 Tablespoons Milk (Ideally the milk and eggs together should weigh 120ml)

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract


Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan over heat, stir well and make sure the sugar is dissolved but don’t overcook. Add this mixture to all the other ingredients and beat for about one minute. Pour into 12 cupcake cases set in a cupcake tin and bake at 160c for about 20 minutes.


The cupcakes are topped with a vanilla cream swirl and sprinkled with ‘burnt’ brown sugar.

When the cakes are cooked and removed from the oven to cool, turn the oven up to 180c. Place two tablespoons of Demerara sugar, spread onto a baking sheet, into the oven and cook until brown – this will only take a few minutes so needs to be watched. The sugar will go very crunchy when removed from the oven to cool.

Whisk 250ml of double cream until thick and add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon caster sugar. This is now ready to swirl onto the top of the cooled cupcakes.

Sprinkle the cooked Demerara sugar liberally over the top and eat! The cakes won’t keep out of the fridge long with fresh cream on top but that is unlikely to be much of a problem. They may not be too much like actual Crème Brulees but they are the lightest, scrummiest cupcakes and very moreish (oh, dear).

If you want to try real Crème Brulees here is a recipe.

If you’ve missed The Great British Bake Off, here are some of the faces which tell you everything about how painful and how exciting baking can be!

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Great British Bake Off – Baguettes

Last week’s ‘Great British Bake Off’ challenged the bakers in the tent to bake a variety of breads. Now bread has not been something I often try at home so I’m always very impressed by the skills shown in the tent. Last year I tried Paul’s ciabatta recipe and surprised myself by how yummy they were so I was keen to try something new this year. I was very happy to see baguettes on the agenda as I really love a proper French baguette and I knew a friend of mine had brought back some French bread flour from a holiday. After scrounging some of the bread flour I set about following the baguette recipe in the new ‘The Great British Bake Off – Celebrations’ book. The recipe is not easy to follow for a bread beginner and I soon began to feel the pressure, even without the television cameras and Paul and Mary looking over my shoulder. Paul has a way of asking specific questions about what the bakers are doing and then looks very scathing as though they’re making a horrible mistake. Goodness only knows what he would have made of my dough and the mess in my kitchen. I have to say I was totally ecstatic to find that something fairly edible came out of the oven at the end. No, it wasn’t four evenly sized baguettes with the perfect golden, crispy crunchy outside and open, airy crumb inside. However, they tasted delicious and I’m so glad I had a go as I certainly learnt a lot more about how to handle dough!

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Here are some of the things we’ve learnt so far on The Great British Bake Off
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Rose Iced Cookies

Last week was ‘biscuit week’ on The Great British Bake Off and we saw some of the bakers ‘crumble’ under the pressure in the tent (sorry!!!) Here’s a recap of the baking fun.

I had great intentions of trying to create an amazing showstopper biscuit ‘box’ filled with biscuits but sadly didn’t have enough time – I’m really not sure that I could have created anything half as amazing as the bakers though. So my bake this week involved creating a very simple but delicious rose icing to decorate some quick cookies.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some lovely roses in my garden and have collected rose petals…

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Rose Petals

I rinsed off the petals very carefully and then lay them out on a tray covered with kitchen roll to dry…

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Rinse the rose petals very carefully

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Drying rose petals

I then added my dried rose petals to a jar topped up with granulated sugar. This makes rose petal sugar but when trying to use this in the past I’ve struggled to know how to use it as dried rose petals are horribly chewy so need to be removed from the sugar. I came up with a great solution which is to put the petals along with the sugar into a food processor and blitz them together. This gives a rose petal icing sugar which can be used in baking or to decorate. I found mine was quite strong so I added just a teaspoon full at a time to ordinary icing sugar to get the perfect flavour.

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Rose Petal Sugar

This icing was so pretty and delicious and perfect to ice simple vanilla cookies…


Rose Iced Cookie

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Great British Bake Off and Black Forest Cake

If, like me, you love baking, have a T.V. and live in the UK, you would undoubtedly have come across ‘The Great British Bake Off’. Series 6 started last week after much excitement and build up. Along with thousands of others I couldn’t wait to start watching and meet this year’s bakers. The first programme of the series didn’t disappoint. It was packed full of baking talent; smiles and tears; baking innuendo and of course, the most popular judges on T.V., Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. It’s a winning formula that has encouraged many of us to take to our ovens and challenge ourselves. I’m always inspired by the intrepid bakers who have such an incredible journey through baking triumphs and disasters, taking on many bakes that I’ve never tried and some I’ve never even heard of.
I’m once again following The Great British Bake Off by challenging myself to try a bake a week along with the programme. I don’t have the time to do all the bakes or indeed the ability to eat them all (though I’d probably give that a good try!) so I’m going to try just one thing a week and see if I can learn something new. In the first week the bakers were asked to bake a perfect Madeira Cake, Mary’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake and a Black Forest Gateaux which was the final challenge and could be the baker’s own version. I initially wanted to try the Technical Challenge which was Mary’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake (Recipe here). However, after finding a bowlful of beautiful cherries on my cherry tree (the first I’ve had) I decided I would have to bake a Black Forest Cake.

The recipe for the two chocolate sponges was taken from the new Bake Off book ‘The Great British Bake Off – Celebrations’. They are fatless, whisked eggs and caster sugar with sifted self-raising flour and cocoa powder folded in. (This makes a very light sponge). I then added a layer of cherry preserve between the two sponge layers (made with my cherries), and white chocolate cream cheese frosting (recipe below). The frosting was also added to the top and sides. The cake is ‘semi-naked’ – with only a very fine layer of frosting on the side, to cut down on sweetness.
Finally, I used some of the same frosting to pipe some swirls all over the cake and added some little cherry blossoms made with flower sugar-paste and a tiny round chocolate ball for the centre. The decoration was really simple as it’s very random but I was pleased with the result and the effect would look lovely on a Wedding or Celebration Cake with fresh fruit and flowers added.

This week also happens to be Afternoon Tea Week (10th – 16th August) and this cake looks beautiful served on a cake stand with a pot of tea at the ready!
Afternoon Tea Week celebrates the great heritage and tradition of Afternoon Tea in the UK. Here is more information and events
In case, you missed the first Great British Bake Off, here’s a recap of some of the best bits!

And finally, Here is a lovely post all about Afternoon Tea by Urvashi at The Botanical Kitchen

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

100g Butter, softened
100g Cream Cheese
100g White Chocolate, melted and allowed to cool a little
300g Icing Sugar
Add all the ingredients together and beat well for a few minutes until well combined, soft and light. If it is too wet, add more icing sugar and beat well. The consistency needs to be soft but firm enough to spread on the cake.

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Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Sponge

Blueberries are delicious with a little lemon or lime and in this cake I’ve used them with lemon and white chocolate. The lemon adds a slight tartness to the blueberries and really brings out their flavour. The white chocolate adds a creamy sweetness that really complements this.

Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Cake

Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Cake

I made a 6” round sponge, using two 6” round baking tins.

For the sponges:-

200g softened butter

200g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

3-4 medium eggs, beaten (you will need 200g weight)

Zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line the two baking tins.

Mix all the ingredients together, I beat the sugar and butter first and then add the beaten eggs, flour and zest and beat for a further minute.

Divide the mixture between the two baking tins and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown, firm to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

While waiting for the cake prepare a blueberry preserve:-

100g Blueberries

Juice of 2 Lemons

100g Granulated sugar

Place the sugar and lemon in a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to the boil, boiling rapidly until the mixture starts to become syrupy. Add the blueberries and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes thicker. You can test by dropping a little onto a cold plate. Only stir very gently as the blueberries will break up too much. Leave to cool completely before adding to the cake.

When the two sponge cakes are baked and fully cooled they are filled with white chocolate buttercream and the blueberry mixture.

White Chocolate Buttercream:-

Melt 100g white chocolate. When it’s almost cool but not set, add 50g softened butter, 250g icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat well.

I’m entering this cake into this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge at Tin and Thyme as the theme is baking with chocolate and blueberries.

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