So it’s late October, it’s getting cold and blustery outside and the clocks are about to go back, plunging us into eternal darkness (for about three months or so). That can only mean one thing…….

Goddamn straight, Noddy.

For the first time I’m having a go at making a Christmas cake; I wanted to keep things traditional so I got my Mum to send over my Great-Grandmother’s recipe. I spent a good time converting all the ingredients into metric from the original list and then found the scales did that for me; not the first time I’ve been outsmarted by simple technology. The 8″ cake tin is lined with baking paper on the inside, and then with newspaper on the outside to stop burning – the cake doesn’t so much go in the oven as take up residence.

Making it is pretty easy – fruit cakes really aren’t tricky at all, but my initial reaction is “dear god, there’s a lot of mixture here’. Half went in the tin and I used a potato masher to press it down into the nooks and crannies. Rest went in, repeat. It practically came up to the top of the tin – no raising agent to speak of but still…….

Five and a half hours to cook – very low temperature – and forty-five minutes to cool and I can finally take it out of the tin.

Basically, it’s a cake version of the boulder that chased Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Anyway, as per instructed I ‘liberally’ add brandy and leave it to mature. I’ll feed the cake a couple of times before December, and then marzipan and ice in time for the actual holiday season. Maybe I’ll try pudding next…..

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In making myself better at this baking lark, I think it’s good to embrace failure as well as success; plus, the chances of getting some additional hits on the blog go up massively as who can’t resist looking at a disaster?

This past Friday my work held a bake sale for MacMillan (the very worthy Cancer charity, not the tiny tequila-soaked shouty man many of us know); I initially was going to bake the Key Lime Pie seen on the Great British Bake Off, but lack of appropriate flan case and time ran against me. Instead, I found a caramelised peach cake in one of my books which looked appealing and relatively simple – melted butter and light brown muscavdo sugar forming the top, then sliced peach halves with the cake batter poured over them and cooked upside down.

Easy enough – or so I thought. The results kind of speak for themselves.

The peaches, I think, were too moist and the top of the cake never cooked properly – unlike the base, which was completely done and close to burning. The caramelised top came off with the baking paper in the base of the pan. I went over the recipe again and I’d followed it pretty meticulously; it might be a case that the temperature needed to be dropped but I think I’ll notch that one up to experience and move on.

I think attempting something relatively simple – some sort of cupcakes – would be good this week for getting my confidence back on track. I’ve also managed to get my great-Grandmother’s Xmas cake recipe, so that will need to go in the oven this weekend so an appropriate amount of booze can start to be added to it.

As autumn closes in and the days get a little darker and damper, I find myself baking more – especially on a Sunday. Work got fed this cake I found on the Baker Lady website here – it’s a very, very moist cake (there’s probably double the juice I’d normally put in a lemon drizzle cake) and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I’d add the icing glaze again if I was to make it a second time.

Cake club was cancelled this month (sad times) so I’m going to have a trawl through some blogs to find something to make with the mountains of lovely blackberries growing in the back garden.

I’m not sure at what point it becomes blogomancy, but I’ve certainly been neglectful. I’ve been through a period where I’ve not made an awful lot but with the Great British Bake-Off back on the telly I’ve been bitten by the bug again.

This week saw my first encounter with meringue – I’ve always quite fancied making a roulade of sorts so, after some trawling blogs via google, I made the decision to use Mary Berry’s receipe for an strawberry and fresh cream roulade.

Making the meringue is simple enough (although I found again that I am not particularly ambidextrous, using my right hand to spoon in the sugar whilst my left is whisking egg whites was nearly disastrous) although it seems to much for the tray size I was using (which, for once, matched the recipe). The meringue itself balloons up in the oven and manages to lose half the almonds once I flip it over to cool. After that, rolling became more of a fold than anything else. I don’t think it would win any prizes for ascetic beauty.

Still, it passed the primary test (no-one died eating it) and the meringue had an almost marshmallow-like texture to it – all gooey rather than crunchy or chewy – and you can’t really go wrong with strawberries and fresh cream but I do need to get more practice rolling roulades. I’m putting pavlova and baked alaska back on the list of things to make in the near future.

Another birthday cake this time – something simple this time, just a plain sponge with cream and strawberries. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be very complicated.

I find this a very useful website for a bog-standard sponge – no matter what size pan you’re using, it’s got a recipe multiplier for its basic recipe. I also got to use my present from Japan, a smiley wooden spoon!

One of the brilliant thing about baking is the sheer amount of blogs out there – if you want to find an unusual recipe or advice on using an out-of-the-ordinary ingredient then chances are you can find it. This weekend was a friend’s birthday and as a enthusiastic drinker of red wine, I wanted to find a cake with that as an integral part in it. I settled for Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe for a Chocolate and Red Wine Cake.

My trial bake used an 8″ tin and it took a bit took long to cook and was a little dry – by moving it to a 9″ tin the actual cake was incredibly moist, almost like a brownie and you could taste the red wine in the bake. I am also reliably informed that it was improved with cream (as I didn’t make the topping listed).

Make sure you have a gander at the amazing candles – direct from Japan!

No, this wasn’t a Wizard of Oz themed event. Sorry.

The rules for this event were quite broad:

“This month, we are taking a trip back in time or in geography to discover everyone’s favourite home recipe. The cake your nan used to bake every Christmas and you would dream about as a kid. Or the cake who’s recipe made your aunt a family celebrity. Or one which uses ingredients from your back garden.

Let us be kids again and indulge in home comforts, whilst ensuring that your treasured family recipes live on!”

I’d already used of my favourite recipe that reminds me of my home in the second meeting (my Mum’s chocolate roulade) so I chose a Scandinavian Apple Cake. When I used to come home from University this was one of the first things I’d ask for, and was also was one of the first cakes I baked when I started taking it up as a hobby. It’s an incredibly moist cake – three layers of crumbled madeira cake mixed with lemon juice, lemon rind and melted butter and inbetween them two layers of stewed apple with sultanas and cinnamon. You can dust it with icing sugar, but I much prefer it without (to be honest I’d prefer it with fresh double cream, but that’s true for most things).

The recipe is here, if you’re interested.

Some beautiful summer weather had arrived finally in Cardiff and the event was held, picnic-style, in the grounds of Bute Park. There was another lovely spread of cake and everyone seems to have discovered best tactics for these events – no dinner, small slices and you stand a chance of getting around a lot, if not all, of everyone’s bakes.

The full spread of cakey deliciousness (mine’s the one in the top-right corner, if you’re looking). It was also nice to talk with someone else there about blogging – I think what I need to do is give this site an overhaul as it’s been something I’ve managed to actually keep up with and check out both the Cardiff food blog network and see about getting to some social media meet-ups.

Hover on the pics for a description of what the cakes were.