Lemon and cucumber cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Sliced_lemon_and_cucumber_cake_close-up_on_texture
Lemon and cucumber cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. I hope you are well. I was having a look at the stats on my site last week and I noticed that the most frequently viewed recipe on my blog over the past 4 weeks has been a recipe I posted 3 years ago for a lemon-soaked cucumber cake. I am assuming that lots of readers have as many cucumbers as I do and are looking for different ways to use them up!

Time for a recipe review. Same combination of flavours, but this time an iced cake and a simple cake batter.

Overhead_image_of_lemon_and_cucumber_cake
Sliced and ready for eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, from just 2 plants. I only had a couple of seeds left in a packet from the year before and, once sown, both have thrived. Mini Munch is a great variety to grow. The cucumbers are small, sweet and delicously refreshing and juicy. They ripen in next to no time once the vines get established.

Mini_Munch_cucumbers_growing_in_greenhouse_and_still-life_with_flower_attached
Greenhouse Mini Munch cucumbers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe. This is a very easy to make cake, no special equipment necessary. I do advise you to add either the xanthan gum or arrowroot as this really does hold the ingredients together to give a firmer texture, but if you decide not to, you’ll still have a delicious cake, it will just be crumbly.

3_mini_cucumbers_with_leaf_on_yellow_chopping_board
Home-grown cucumber harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 1 x 18cm cake

Ingredients

  • 90g dairy-free margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g plain dairy-free yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 150g gluten-free self-raising flour blend (I use Doves Farm)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum or 10g ground arrowroot
  • 125g grated cucumber
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
  • 125g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy and well blended. Stir in the yogurt.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice and icing sugar, and mix together until well combined.

3. Pile into the tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6_steps_to_making_lemon_and_cucumber_cake_batter
Lemon and cucumber cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 3-4 tsp lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spread all over the top of the cake and allow it to run down the sides. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before decorating.

3_steps_showing_baked_lemon_and_cucumber_cake_ready_for_lemon_icing
Baked cake ready for icing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
Close-up_on_fresh_lemon_icing_drizzle
Drizzling fresh lemon icing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I decorated my cake with cucumber flowers (male ones – no little fruit attached), orange-scented geranium leaves and a few strips of blanched lemon rind.

Whole_lemon_and_cucumber_cake_with_decoration
Decoration of cucumber flowers, orange scented geranium leaves and lemon rind. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me this week. I’m off to sort out my glut of runner beans! Until next time, my best wishes to you 🙂

My raspberry round-up plus recipe for Raspberry and pistachio cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Fresh_raspberry_and_pistachio_nut_cake_with_crumble_top
Combination of fresh raspberries, pistachio nuts and marzipan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are keeping well. I’ve had a busy few days since my last post. There seems to be lots to do in the garden and kitchen at the moment. Plenty of tidying up (and weeding!) in the garden, and the much anticipated home-grown fruit and veg is ripe and ready so lots to cook up and freeze as well.

This week’s post is an homage to my Glen Ample raspberry canes which have produced a phenomenal 6.3kg of berries this year. Rather forlornly, I picked the last few berries this week.

Homegrown_Scottish_raspberries_first_half_of_July_2020

Second_half_of_July_2020_home-grown_raspberries
My 2020 raspberry haul. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The canes are now having a well-earned rest and enjoying some sunshine – they had been covered with fleece for over a month as the birds took a fancy to the berries early on.

Glen_Ample_raspberry_canes_covered_in_fleece_ and_post-harvest
My exhausted raspberry canes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of berries to play with but a combination of jam, vinegar, compote and a couple of large bags for the freezer has seen them all used up. By the way, compote makes the dish sound a bit grander, I literally cooked them with a bit of sugar to eat with my morning porridge!

Multiple_images_of_fresh_raspberry_compote_raspberry_jam_frozen_raspberries_and_raspberry_vinegar
Raspberry compote, jam, freezer packs and vinegar. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Links to all my other raspberry recipes can be found by clicking on the key-words below:

On with this week’s recipe. Another reinvention of a crumble-topped cake – they are so easy to make, and taste delicious, I just can’t resist making them! Leave out the pistachios or replace with almonds or hazelnuts if you prefer, and the marzipan layer is optional (I realise it’s not to everyone’s taste) but you may want to add some sugar to the raspberry mixture if you don’t use it.

Raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake_overhead_and_side_on
Fruit and nut, a winning flavour combination. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 180g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 100g vanilla or plain caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 260g gluten free plain flour blend (such as Doves Farm)
  • 50g unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped + extra pistachios to decorate
  • 150g marzipan, grated (optional)
  • 300g fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Grease and line a deep 20cm round cake tin – I used a spring-clip tin for ease. In a mixing bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until creamy, then stir in the almonds, flour and pistachios to make a crumbly mixture.
  2. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the tin, prick with a fork and put the in on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden round the edge. Sprinkle the marzipan all over the cooked base if using and put to one side. Steps_1_to_6_in_the_making_of_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake

    Steps_7_to_9_in_making_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake
    Making the crumble and assembling the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Mash the raspberries with a fork and add the cornflour – if you are not using marzipan add 2 tbsp caster sugar to the raspberry mix as well. Spoon over the marzipan layer and spread out evenly.
  4. Sprinkle over the remaining crumble mixture, pat down lightly with the back of a spoon and bake for about 40 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before releasing and transferring to a serving plate to serve warm, or leave to cool completely in the tin to serve cold.

    Steps_10_to_15_in_making_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake
    Adding the raspberries and crumble top. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve this cake warm as a dessert with cream, yogurt or custard or cold as a delicious and indulgent slice to accompany a cup of coffee.

    A_slice_of_homemade_raspberry_and_pistachio_crumble_cake
    Melt-in-the-mouth crumble cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, thanks for stopping by. Take care. I will be posting again soon 🙂

Strawberry shortcakes (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Homemade_gluten-free_dairy-free_vegan_version_of_a_strawberry_shortcake
Strawberry shortcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are all keeping well. Time for something sweet this week on my blog to celebrate the start of the soft fruit season here in central Scotland. The area I live in is well known for its soft fruit production. A couple of weeks ago, the first of the new season strawberries arrived in the shops, and very delicious they are too. Sweet with a slight acidic note, aromatic and fruity, they are one of the best soft fruits around.

China_bowl_full_of_Scottish_strawberries
New season Scottish strawberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

What better way to enjoy them than with shortcakes and cream. I’ve been working on a thick vegan cream for a while. As much as I like coconut yogurt, sometimes you just don’t want the flavour dominating whatever you are eating. I am able to buy a pouring cream made from soya milk as well as various crême fraîche-style non-dairy alternatives, but I haven’t been able to find anything that resembles whipped cream. What I have come up with I think makes a great alternative to any of the above.

Individual_homemade_strawberry_shortcake_on_a_white_china_stand
Ta dah! Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipe for the cream and shortcakes. Make the cream first because it needs time to cool and then chill to allow it to firm up. Ideally, start the day before for less faffing around. The shortcakes are best eaten freshly baked but do freeze fine.

Makes: 8 filled shortcakes

Ingredients

For the vegan cream:

  • 100ml readymade soya pouring cream
  • 40g white vegetable fat such as Trex or flavourless coconut oil (this needs to be a solid fat, not a margarine)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • A few drops vanilla extract, optional

For the shortcakes:

  • 250g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 4 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 80g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g caster sugar + extra to sprinkle
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • approx. 80ml dairy-free milk (I use oat milk) + extra to glaze

To serve:

  • Strawberry jam
  • Fresh strawberries, hulled washed and sliced
  1. First make the cream. Pour the soya cream into a small heatproof bowl and add the fat. Place on top of a small saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat, mix well, then stir in the xanthan gum until completely blended. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. The mixture thickens on cooling.
  3. When cold, have a taste and see if you like the flavour as it is. Otherwise add a few drops  of vanilla extract (or you might prefer a pinch of salt).  Whisk for about a minute with an electric whisk, then cover and chill the cream for at least 2 hours. After this time, the cream should be the consistency of thick, spoonable yogurt. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.

6_steps_showing_how_to_make_a_thick_vegan_cream
Making thick vegan cream. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

  1. For the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C fan oven, gas 7. Lightly grease 8 muffin tins. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the margarine and rub into the dry ingredients until well blended.
  2. Stir in the sugar and xanthan gum along with sufficient milk to bring the dough together in a soft ball. Turn on to the work top, dust with flour and knead lightly until smooth.
  3. Divide into 8 equal portions, form each into a ball and press into the muffin tins.
  4. Brush with a little more milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then loosen and transfer the shortcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Steps_1_to_6_showing_how_to_make_individual_shortcakes

    Steps_7_to_9_of shortcake_preparation_shaping_and_baking
    How to make individual shortcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Gluten-free_dairy-free_vegan_shortcakes_cooling_on_a_wire_rack
    Cool the shortcakes on a wire rack. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, slice the shortcakes in half and add a dollop of cream, jam and a few sliced berries. The shortcakes are also good simply spread with dairy-free margarine and jam.

    Preparation_of_filling_shortcakes_with_cream_jam_and_fruit
    Filling shortcakes with vegan cream, jam and sliced berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Here’s one I sampled earlier……..

    Homemade_strawberry_shortcake_with_bite_out
    Irresistible. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next time, I hope you have a good, safe and healthy few days. I look forward to posting again in a few days time 🙂

Tutti frutti coconut bars (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Slices_of_tutti_frutti_coconut_and_chocolate_cake
All fruits coconut bars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Here in the UK, we are now in week 3 of lock-down, and whilst the weather has been wonderful this week and the garden has been very well attended to, I have also spent some time in the kitchen creating this week’s post.

I looked in the fridge at the weekend and noted a few bits and pieces that needed to be used up. The combination before me made me think of a sweet treat from yesteryear, Paradise Slice, which was a combination of dried fruit and sweet fudgy coconut mixture baked with a layer of chocolate underneath. And so, this week’s recipe was born.

New_take_on_Paradise_slice
Paradise slice revisited. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any dried fruit you have in the fridge or cupboard – sultanas, raisins, dried apricot, cranberries will all work fine. I had the remnants of a bag of Trail Mix and some glacé cherries to use up, and they have created a very colourful combination.

Overhead_close-up_on_2_slices_of_tutti_frutti_coconut_cake
A filling of candied papaya, mango, pineapple and cherries mixed with coconut. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The original bake I remember contained eggs to bind the ingredients together, but in this recipe, I use a vegan meringue-style mixture which works very well and helps keep the coconut filling moist and pure white in colour. There are a few stages to the recipe, but if you haven’t got time to do it all in one go, you can bake the base first and then make the filling and topping later on. I hope you enjoy it.

Makes: 12 slices

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 100g white vegetable fat (such as Trex) or coconut oil, softened
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 20g cocoa powder

For the filling and topping:

  • 90ml chickpea canning water
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • 150g dried or candied fruit, chopped
  • 150g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark dairy-free chocolate
  1. First make the base. Grease and line a deep 20cm square tin. Beat together the fat and sugar until well blended and creamy. Sift the flour and cocoa on top and mix everything together well. Bring together with your hands to form a soft dough and then press into the bottom of the tin. Smooth with the back of a spoon, prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Bake the chocolate base for 20 minutes until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool, the cover until ready to make the filling.

    4_steps_to_making_chocolate_shortbread_base
    Making the chocolate base. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. For the filling, pour the canning water into a large grease-free bowl and whisk until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking for a full 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the sugar, tablespoon at a time, whisking well in between, and then add the xanthan gum. Continue whisking for a further 2 minutes to make a thick, glossy meringue.
  5. Add the fruit, coconut and vanilla and gently mix everything together. Pile on top of the chocolate base, smooth the top. Bake at 170°C, 150°C, gas 3 for about 40 minutes until just firm to the touch, puffed up and lightly browned – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin – it will deflate on cooling.

    6_steps_to_making_tutti_frutti_coconut_filling
    Making the fruit and coconut filling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the coconut layer is cool, melt the chocolate and spread it over the top of the filling, right to the edges. Leave in a cool place for a few minutes until the chocolate is just about to set, then score with a sharp knife into 12 bars – it is important to do this before the chocolate sets otherwise, without scoring, the chocolate will shatter when you come to cut the bars through.
  7. Leave to set completely. Chill if necessary. Note: I have kept the bars quite large for easier cutting (and because I’m greedy!), but you can score the chocolate with 2 more lines and cut into 24 for small portions.
  8. To serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and peel back the lining paper. Use a large sharp knife to cut through the chocolate, filling and base to make 12 bars – it is quite a crumbly mixture but a good blade should get through it easily.

    Topping_tutti_frutti_coconut_bars_with_melted_chocolate
    Covering with chocolate and slicing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The slices keep well in a cake tin, but if the room temperature is warm, they are best stored in the fridge.

Up_close_on_a_slice_of_tutti_frutti_coconut_cake
A slice of paradise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. My best wishes to you all until my next post. Keep healthy and stay safe 🙂

Gujerati-style spiced vegetable cake

Overhead_image_of_a_homemade_Gujerati-style_spiced_vegetable_cake
Spiced vegetable cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It feels like a while since I posted a recipe. To be honest, I have been busy with work projects and haven’t had so much time to set aside for my blog. But I about to  rectify that now with this week’s recipe, inspired by a Gujerati dish called “Handvo”. This is a savoury cake made with spices, grated vegetables and a flour made from rice and lentil or dahl. It reminds me of a savoury carrot cake.

Sliced_Gujerati-style_spiced_vegetable_cake
Lightly spiced and full of flavour. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is best eaten hot with a salad and some fruity chutney. I have eaten it cold, at room temperature, and it was still very tasty but the texture was a little drier. Something different for a picnic or packed lunch perhaps? You need to start the recipe the day before baking because you need to soak the flour and yogurt mixture overnight. After that, it’s all pretty straightforward.

Images_of_the_vegetables_and_spices_in_spiced_vegetable_cake
Vegetables and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The vegetable ingredients can be changed to suit personal preference. Carrots and ordinary potato work instead of sweet potato; chard or spring greens would make a good alternative to spinach; use pea instead of sweetcorn and leek instead of spring onion. The spices I use give a mellow flavour, so you may want experiment with others if you prefer something more robust. For a shortcut, you could replace the lot with a general purpose curry powder.

Gujerati-style_spiced_vegetable_cake_serving_slice
A slice of savoury cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 115g gram flour
  • 115g white rice flour
  • 150g plant-based yogurt (I used coconut)
  • 115g grated raw sweet potato
  • 75g cooked sweetcorn kernels
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 50g raw spinach, chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 75ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp each cumin and black onion seeds
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  1. Sieve the flours into a bowl and mix in the yogurt along with 100ml luke warm water until well blended and the consistency of thick batter. Cover and leave in a cool room temperature for about 12 hours.

    Soaking_rice_and_gram_flour_in_yogurt_and_water
    Soaking the flours in yogurt and water. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 240°C, 220°C fan oven, gas 9. Grease and line a 20cm spring-clip or loose-based cake tin.
  3. Add the vegetables, coriander, chilli, asafoetida, garlic, salt and sugar to the soaked cake batter and mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat the oil and fry the spice seeds gently until starting to pop then add to the cake mixture and mix well.
  5. Spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6, and cook for a further 35-40 minutes until firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve hot or cold with more coriander and salad.

    6_steps_to_making_spiced_vegetable_cake_batter
    Making and baking the cake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    I hope you enjoy the recipe. Have a good few days. It’s beginning to feel a little more spring-like here, but I expect I’ve put a damper on things now I’ve said that! See you again soon 🙂

    Forkful_of_spiced_vegetable_cake
    A savoury cake with a texture a bit like carrot cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Gingerbread cupcakes and cookies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Ginger_cake_cupcakes_iced_and_decorated_with_mini_gingerbread_men
Gingerbread cupcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I have two lighthearted recipes for you this week. One for cake and one for cookies, and if you choose to, you can make either or both 🙂

I don’t think there are many people who can resist a  gingerbread man cookie. They look so cute for one thing and then there is the sweetness and the mellow spiciness of gingerbread itself. It is a perfect bake for this time of year with its warming and comforting aroma and flavour.

Mini_gingerbread_man_decorating_the_top_of_an_iced_cupcake
Just waiting to be eaten. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The gingerbread men cookies keep very well in an airtight container for over a week, and also freeze well. The cakes are best eaten within 24 hours, so you may want to ice a few at a time. After 24 hours, I find that the cake dries. The cake batter has a relatively low fat content compared to other cake recipes so the keeping qualities are reduced. No matter, the cakes and the frosting freeze fine too. By the way, the uniced cakes can be served warm as a pudding, just pop in the microwave for a few seconds and voila!

Small_tartan_tin_with_homemade_gingerbread_men
Mini homemade gingerbread men cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂

Gingerbread men cookies

Makes: approx. 25

Ingredients:

  • 75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 25g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp white icing for decorating (I make mine simply with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water)
  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices into a bowl and rub in the margarine with your fingertips until well blended. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with a little more flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a small gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, gathering and re-rolling the trimmings as necessary. My cutter is 6cm tall, and I made 25 cookies. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. When cool, put the icing in a piping bag (no nozzle necessary). Snip off a tiny piece from the end and pipe features on each cookie. Leave for a few minutes to dry before storing in an airtight container.

    4_steps_showing_shaping_baking_and_decorating_homemade_gingerbread_men
    Making, baking and decorating gingerbread men cookies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Gingerbread cupcakes

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 300g plain gluten-free flour blend
  • 20g gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 190g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 225ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)

Lightly spiced frosting

  • 100g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stem ginger if using. Mix everything together.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and milk. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well blended and make a smooth, thick batter.

    Ingredients_and_cake_batter_preparation_for_gingerbread_cupcakes
    Gingerbread cupcake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Divide between the cases and bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch – they do sink a little bit so don’t worry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. For the frosting, put the margarine in a bowl and beat to make it smooth and glossy, then gradually sieve over the icing sugar, in small batches, mixing it in well after each addition, to make a smooth, soft and fluffy icing. Stir in the spices and ginger wine or syrup if using.
  5. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. If you don’t fancy piping, simply smooth some frosting on top using a small palette knife.

    4_images_showing_baking_and_decorating_gingerbread_cupcakes
    Baking and decorating gingerbread cupcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, pop a gingerbread man cookie on top of each cupcake. The cookies will go soft if left on top of the cakes for more than half an hour, so best leave the arranging until the last minute to eat them at their crisp best.

    Have a good few days. Until next time, happy baking!

    Bite-out_of_gingerbread_cupcake_with_mini_gingerbread_man
    Love at first bite. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The icing on the cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Vegan_gluten-free_fruit_cake_topped_with_marzipan_decorated_for_Christmas
Vegan and gluten-free, fruit cake for Christmas. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Well, I admit, not quite “icing” on top of my Christmas cake this year, but a delicious layer of marzipan instead. If you’re not a fan of almond paste, then a layer of ready-to-roll white icing will do the trick just as well.

Overhead_image_of_a_marzipanned_vegan_fruit_cake_decorated_simply_for_Christmas
Cherries and fresh herbs make a simple festive decoration. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the sugar and spice fruit cake I made back in November – recipe here. It’s turned out ok and smells divine. I can’t wait to tuck in.

If you want to marzipan or ice the top of a cake, it’s quite straightforward. For an 18cm round cake like this one, you’ll need 250g marzipan or ready-to-roll icing for a reasonably thick layer. Knead it gently to soften a little (this will make it easier to roll), then dust the work top lightly with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan or icing to form a rough 19cm circle. Use the base of the tin that you cooked your cake in as a template to cut yourself a neat round.

Using_a_round_tin_base_to_cut_a_marzipan_circle
Making a marzipan round. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Unwrap your cake, turn it upside down to give a smooth surface and brush with some smooth apricot jam – I like to add a splash of rum to the jam for an extra kick. Carefully transfer the marzipan or icing circle to the top of the cake and smooth it in place.

Brush_a_fruit_cake_with_jam_and_topping_with_marzipan
Covering the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Now your cake is ready to decorate and tie with ribbon for a finishing touch. I have used glacé cherries with fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs for a very simple yet festive decoration, but I’m sure you will have your own ideas.

This is my last post before Christmas. Thank you all for stopping by over the past 12 months and for your lovely comments. I hope you have a good time over the holidays and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy festive time. I look forward to posting again in the new year.

Home-made_vegan_gluten-free_Christmas_cake_slice
Christmas on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Sugar and spice fruit cake for Christmas (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Gluten-free_dairy-free_vegan_Christmas_cake
Getting ready for Christmas, gluten-free and vegan, this year’s Christmas fruit cake ready for wrapping and storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In my kitchen, November marks the month that I bake a fruit cake for Christmas. I love the fragrant spicy and citrus aromas wafting from the oven as the cake bakes. Utterly delicious.

Making a rich fruit cake about 6 weeks before Christmas allows the spices chance to settle down, mellow and improve before serving up over the festive season.

Assorted_dried_fruit_alongside_typical_fruit_cake_flavourings
Christmas cake fruit and flavourings. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When it comes to fruit, I usually go with a mixture of dried vine fruits, chopped apricots and glacé cherries. Orange and lemon rind and juice add some zest and zing. I always use dark brown sugar and treacle for richness and colour. I usually vary the spices, one year I did mostly ginger and mixed spice for a classic “gingerbread” flavour, but this time around I’ve used cinnamon and allspice together with a classic mixed spice blend. I had white rum to use up this year, but most often I use the dark version.

Lined_cake_tin_wrapped_in_brown_paper
Tin protection for prolonged baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Fruit cakes do take a long time to cook, so you need to make sure the outside edges of the cake don’t over-cook. Double-line the sides of the tin inside with baking parchment and then wrap the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper and secure with string. I also put a circle of brown paper in the bottom of the tin before adding a couple of circles of baking parchment on top.

It is worth checking the oven temperature manually before you start baking any cake but especially before one that needs long, slow cooking – I always pop an oven thermometer in the oven before preheating to check the temperature is correct. My cooking time of 3 hours will produce a very moist and dense cake, but if you prefer something drier and more crumbly, extend the cooking time by 30 minutes up to 1 hour.

On with the recipe. If you’ve never made a Christmas cake before I understand that the list of ingredients will be completely daunting, but this is a very straightforward recipe, so I hope I can tempt you to have a go.

Serves: 16

Ingredients

  • 900g mixed dried and glacé fruit such as raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped dried apricots, and cherries
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small lemon
  • Finely grated rind and juice 1 small orange
  • 100ml white or dark rum + 2 – 4 tbsp. extra for feeding
  • 225g coconut oil
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground mixed spice
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp natural almond extract
  • 1 tbsp. natural vanilla extract
  1. Prepare a deep, 18cm round cake tin by double lining with baking parchment and brown paper – see above. Place on a baking tray.
  2. Put the fruit in a large saucepan with the citrus rind and juice, rum, coconut oil, sugar and treacle. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until melted, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

    Melting_ingredients_for_gluten-free_and_vegan_Christmas_cake
    Preparing the fruit mixture. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C fan oven, gas 2. Put the chia seeds in a bowl and add 125ml cold water. Stir and leave for 5 minutes to form a thick, gel-like mixture.

    Chia_seed_"egg"
    Making chia “egg”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Transfer the fruit mixture to a large bowl and mix in the chia “egg”. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to make sure that there are no pockets of flour. Transfer to the tin, smooth the top and bake for 3 hours – see notes above for longer cooking.
  5. Remove from the oven and skewer the top deeply all over. Spoon over 2 tbsp. rum, then leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.

    Skewering_hot_fruit_cake_and_spooning_over_rum
    Rum-soaked cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the cake is completely cold, remove from the tin and discard all the wrappings. Wrap well in fresh baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then either wrap tightly in foil or store in an air-tight container.

    Fuit_cake_wrapped_in_paper_and_stored_in_air-tight_tin
    Wrapping and storing fruit cake for Christmas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Keep the cake in a cool, dark, dry place for best results. If you want to give the cake a bit more of a kick you can feed it with more rum every 2 weeks. I find one more dose is fine for me. Avoid adding rum in the final few days before serving as it will not have time to mellow out and may spoil the overall flavour of the cake.

    Feeding_a_fruit_cake_with_rum_during_storing
    Feeding the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    To feed, simply unwrap the cake and spoon over another tablespoon of rum. Let it soak in completely before wrapping up again and ontinue storing until you are ready to ice the cake for Christmas. I’ll follow up this post next month with the unveiling of the finished cake.

Mini lime pies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

Platte_of_mini_lime_pies
Zesty and zingy, mini lime pies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Limes are my favourite of all citrus fruit. I love the intense, slightly perfumed flavour. A small fruit that packs a punch on the taste-buds. This week’s recipe is a simple dessert with a ginger gluten-free biscuit crust but can be easily adapted to use other plain biscuits if you prefer. If you like lemon, the filling will taste just as good using lemon on its own or as a mix with lime.

2_whole_fresh_limes_with_cut_lime_half
Intensely citrusy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you are making a gluten-free crust, it will be softer than if you use traditional biscuits, so pop the pies out of the tins and onto a serving plate at the last minute for best results. The mini lime pies make a perfect light summery dessert or tea-time treat served with berry fruits. I hope you enjoy 🙂

Makes: 12 pies

Ingredients

  • 250g gluten-free ginger biscuits (if you use non gluten-free biscuits, the crust will be firmer), finely crushed
  • 90g dairy-free margarine, coconut oil or vegan butter (if you use the oil or vegan butter, the crust will hold together better; dairy-free margarine gives a more crumbly texture), melted
  • 20g cornflour
  • Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes (if using lemon and lime, you want about 75ml juice and 7g zest for good flavour)
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 45ml diary-free single cream (such as soya or oat)
  • Natural green food colouring, optional
  • Lime zest, dairy-free white choc bar shavings and small berries to decorate
  1. Line a 12-cup jam tart tin with a double layer of cling film. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and mix in the melted margarine, oil or butter until well mixed.
  2. Divide the mixture equally between the tins and press into each indent using the back of a teaspoon or small pastry case shaper. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
  3. For the filling, put the cornflour in a saucepan. Add the lime rind and gradually blend in the juice to make a smooth paste. Stir in 75ml cold water and the sugar.
  4. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then slowly bring to the boil, stirring , and simmer gently for 1 minute until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and a few drops food colouring if using. Cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Divide between the biscuit cases, tap the tin on the work top to level the filling and leave to cool. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

    3_preparation_steps_to_making_mini_lime_pies
    Making mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When ready to serve, carefully peel the pies from the cling film and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime zest, white choc bar shavings and serve with mini berries such as wild strawberries.

    Close-up_of_mini_lime_pies
    Super citrusy mini lime pies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Banana and coconut bread (dairy-free; vegan)

Iced_home-made_banana_and_coconut_bread
Banana and coconut bread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.

Iced_and_sprinkled_with_toasted_coconut_banana_and_coconut_bread
Iced and coconut sprinkled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.

Overhead_banana_and_coconut_bread_with_one_slice_off
Just one slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.

English_1950's_steel_loaf_tin
My new/old loaf tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.

I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.

Ripe_bananas_coconut_oil_coconut_sugar_coconut_yogurt
Ripe bananas and coconut products. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
  • 100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
  • 100ml dairy-free milk
  • 200g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 50g solid coconut oil
  • 100g coconut sugar

For the icing:

  • 125g icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
  2. Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
  3. Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Banana_and_coconut_bread_mix_before_and_after_baking
    Before and after baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make  smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.

    A_slice_of_iced_home-made_banana_and_coconut_bread
    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins