Summer Reading List (to-be-read list)

I love a good book.

I know this is a blog titled United Cakedom, but in my head in the world of United Cakedom would have a library that would rival the one Beast gives to Beauty in the movie.

It's been the hottest and longest summer England has seen in years. To be precise since the summer of 1976! So, I am a little late in writing a summer reading list, but again it's England and my kids haven't finished school yet. This Friday is their last day and then they will be free for 6 glorious weeks!

Now, I have been keeping track of the books I read to see how many I can read in a year. I am averaging about 5 a month so, I am going to list 6 books here that I plan to read between now and the beginning of September.

So, without further ado.....

Competence by Gail Carriger 

synopsis - Accidentally abandoned! All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail. When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life's most challenging questions: Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?

- I haven't actually bought this yet, but I will be picking it up this week and will probably devour it right away. I have loved every single book that Gail Carriger has written and that I have read. There are a few I haven't, but that will change I am sure over time!

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso 

synopsis - In the space of ten years, Sophia Amoruso has gone from high-school dropout to founder and Executive Chairman of Nasty Gal, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.
Sophia's never been a typical executive, or a typical anything, and she's written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success.
Filled with brazen wake-up calls, cunning and frank observations, and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal's meteoric rise, #GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground. It proves that success doesn't come from where you went to college or how popular you were in school. Success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break.
Inspiring, motivating and empowering, #GIRLBOSS will give you the kick up the ass you need to reach your potential.

- I am cheating a little as I have already started this book and loving it. It's just a straight forward no bull shit book. I am drawn to it because I am always curious how people get started. I didn't know who she was until the show covering her life showed up on Netflix (yet to be watched, in the middle of Peaky Blinders atm).

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

synopsis - In uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a mysterious forest. Deep within are cinchona trees, whose bark yields the only known treatment for malaria.
In 1859, across the Pacific, India is ravaged by the disease. In desperation, the India Office dispatches the injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne to Bedlam, under orders to return with cinchona cuttings. But there he meets Raphael, an enigmatic priest who is the key to a secret which will prove more valuable than they could ever have imagined.

- When I first picked up this book I didn't even read what it was about, because it's by the same author as The Watchmaker on Filigree Street and I really enjoyed that book. So, I am hoping I haven't been foolish and bought this at full price for nothing!

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

synopsis - Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge. 
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband's awkward cousin for company. 
But inside her new home lies a locked room...

- I love a good mystery novel and they are perfect for summer reading! This was an impulse buy. It was there and I was like that sounds interesting into my already full arms of books it went!

Happy Mum Happy Baby by Giovanna Fletcher 

synopsis - Being a mum is an incredible journey, a remarkable experience that changes how we look, how we feel, who we are. As mothers we are strong, protective, proud. We feel a love like no other.
But being a parent can be hard too. It challenges us physically, mentally, emotionally. There are the days where just managing to fit a shower in amidst the endless feeding, entertaining young children and surviving on a lack of sleep feels like an achievement. With so many people ready to offer 'advice' on the best way to parent, it can feel like you are getting it all wrong.
This is not a book about how to have the perfect family experience - Gi would be the first to admit she is winging it just as much as the rest of us - instead it is an honest, upbeat and incredibly personal account of her own experience of having a family. In Happy Mum, Happy Baby Giovanna shares her own journey through parenthood and in doing so, she looks at what it is to be a mother today, encourages you to be confident in yourself as a parent and celebrates how putting a focus on being a happy and confident mum can really make for a happy baby.

- I no longer have baby babies. I have children now. So, I think I might be a bit ahead of this book in my life, but I admire her and her husband and after watching her Youtube series that followed up this book I was curious to what this was all about. I managed to snag the download on my kindle app for 99p. For that price why not check it out!

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

synopsis - My name is Peter Grant, and I used to be a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. Then one night I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was already dead but still disturbingly voluble . . . and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.
And that, as they say, is where the story really starts.
There's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that's taking ordinary Londoners and twisting them into something awful.
The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

- I went to Oxford a few weeks back, just for a change of scenery and of course wondered into a book store. I mean I just sort of walked in. And the whole series of this was on display and I have been curious about them for awhile, but couldn't afford all of them at that moment in time so I thought I'd think about as I have a huge TBR stack sitting next to my bed! Then it popped up for 99p on my kindle and then the second one came up for 99p so I have this and the second to get started and see if I will need to download the rest!

Books on my to-be-read list: 
Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel (mystery)
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (novel)
The Cows by Dawn O'Porter (novel)
Circe by Madeline Miller (YA)
Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan (novel)

Books I recommend: 
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (Sci-Fi/Mystery/Comedy)
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (YA)
All That She Can See by Carrie Hope Fletcher (novel)
Grace and Fury by Tracey Banghart (YA)
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

I you want to see how I get on with these books and other books I am reading follow me on instagram where I share pretty much anything and everything! You can find me @unitedcakedom

*I do not own these images they come from either the authors own site or amazon and the synopsis are from the backs of the books.

Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe)

Every thing has a national or international day these days.

Not only is social media a headache to keep up with how are we meant to keep up with all these celebrations of literally everything. I mean today (June 22nd, 2018) alone is National Take your Dog to Work day and National Onion Rings Day and don't forget National Chocolate Eclair Day.  

Now don't get me wrong I have used national days to my advantage. Like the 12th of June is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day so naturally on social media I am that annoying person going 

"Hey Everyone!! It's National Peanut Butter Cookie Day didn't ya know? Why not check out these Peanut Butter Cookies I made and if you want to make them too check the recipe out on my blog now!"

But I forgot all about National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. I was going to share these with you. However that never happened, the day just passed me by. So, here ten days later I am sharing with you some peanut butter cookies.

They are still good cookies even if they weren't eaten nor blogged about on 'their' day. The worst part is I can't shamelessly promote it by claiming its National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. 

Peanut Butter Cookies

160g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
114g unsalted butter, room temp
150g light brown sugar
50g sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g peanut butter, smooth/crunchy
50g-75g salted peanuts
50g peanut butter chips (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. 
Beat the butter, and both sugars together until creamy and light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until combined. Add the peanut butter and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients in three batches mixing until just combined in-between each addition. Fold the peanuts and peanut butter chips if using into the cookie dough. 
Cover the cookie dough and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 3 days. 

When ready to bake remove from the fridge while you heat the oven to 170C/350F and line the baking trays with grease proof baking paper. 
Scoop out about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough and roll into a ball and place on the prepared baking tray. Once you've used all the dough, gently press down on each one with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. 
Bake for 10-13 minutes depending on your oven. The less you bake the softer the are and the longer the more crispy they are. Because cookies can look under-baked when they come out trust your timer and oven especially if you want softer cookies. 
Leave to cool and enjoy with a glass of cold milk! 

Living on the Veg: A kid's guide to life without meat by Clive Gifford & Jacqueline Meldrum

Over the last few years I have been cooking a minimum two veggie meals a week to accommodate for my child who doesn't particularly like meat. We have discussed her dislike for meat and what her other options are, but this book has been great for her to understand what exactly it means to be a vegetarian and the global impact of her choices. It has also shown her she isn't alone.

Food is one of those topics everyone has an opinion on as we all need it to survive. It's something we are all too happy to judge people, claiming that a food choice that isn't the one we would make as 'weird' or 'gross.' But if we don't talk about food then how do we know what else is out there?

I feel more empowered after reading this book to be able to explain my choices as well as my defend my daughter's choices to people. Like anything it's about educating people and it's best to educate them young and this book is a great introduction to 'living on the veg!'

Not only does it give us a lot of information it also gives us a few recipes to get started with from Jacqueline Meldrum, vegetarian and food blogger at Tinned Tomatoes. My daughters and I choose to make the Puff Pizza Pies for a treat one day after school. They are super easy and easily topped with your favorite vegetables to make the ultimate veggie pizza!

There were other great recipes like these bean burgers and sweet treats like coconut ice! There are so many more options then you think when you are eating veggie, sometimes it's just thinking a little more creatively! Your taste buds will thank you! 

If my review isn't enough to convince you have a look at these other bloggers who have reviewed Living on the Veg!!

*I was provided a copy of Living on the Veg by by Clive Gifford & Jacqueline Meldrum to review by the publisher, Wayland, retails at £12.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan {book review}

Recipe writing has changed over the years, back in the day when people scribbled down recipes for each other it was with abbreviations and the simplest of instructions. So simple that today we would have trouble understanding exactly what they wanted us to do. Jessie, through her love of vintage cookbooks and pamphlets, has deciphered the ingredient lists and instructions and brought back long forgotten treats. 

In the past when a brand came out with a new appliance or gadget they would alway include a recipe pamphlet to go with it. Which makes sense to me and some brands still do it. I know Nordic Ware and Wiltons provide recipes on the packaging of their baking tins and my Kitchen Aid had instructions on how to send away for a 'free cookbook' which I had every intention of doing, but didn't. I wonder if it's too late? 

Anyhow, it was these books and pamphlets that Jessie collected from antique stores and secondhand shops and developed the recipes to suit us modern folks. With a wide range of recipes that cover everything from Sweet & Savory Morning Treats to Confections and everything in between we are taken back to a simpler time.

The books these recipes are inspired by range from 1800's to 1950's; some of them are familiar and others I have never heard of. But there are a few I am definitely bookmarking to try out myself....

Chai Banna Fritters
Butterscotch Pecan Curls (pictured)
Vanilla Yogurt Coffee Cake
Black-Bottom Banana Dream Bars (pictured)
Fig Pincushions
Lemon Chiffon Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream
Cherry-Almond Slab Pie with Marzipan Crumble (pictured)
Blueberry Angel Food Dream
Coconut Blitz Torte (pictured)
Milk Chocolate Malted Pudding (pictured)
Ice Cream Cake
Hot Fudge Sauce
Curried Candy Cashews
Chocolate-Marshmallow-Walnut Fudge with Sea Salt (pictured)

These are just a few of the recipes in this book, but it gives you an idea of what to expect. Even if you never baked anything from this book, although I don't see how you wouldn't want too, it's an intriguing book to read. Each recipe has a little picture of the book or pamphlet that the recipe was inspired by and even though it's a little thing, it has given it a nice little touch and adds to the atmosphere of the book. 

I think this is a great book, not only for those who love baking, but those who love everything vintage. I love being transported to another place and time through food. If you want to learn more before getting a copy for yourself, check out the author's website here and she shares a link to the recipe for Silver Cake with Pink Frosting to try out! 

The book is essential vintage American bakes, but the recipes give us UK readers weights in grams, which saves us time converting! So, please don't let that put you off!!

*I was provided a copy of The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan (photography by Alice Gao) to review by the publisher, Chronicle Books, retails at £18.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Lemon Bars - {recipe}

I live on a main road and were I have gotten used to the traffic and the bus that runs all night has almost become a comforting sound as it rolls by before drifting off to sleep or in the mornings when waking up.

It's also the lights of these buses that keep my company as I stay up late baking. I have always preferred to bake at night. I think it's because when I started baking I was a stay at home mom and I liked waiting until the kids were in bed and it was a way of de-stressing. Unless it didn't turn out and then I would stress more.

But generally speaking it was therapeutic weighing out the ingredients and mixing them all together before popping it into the oven and then cleaning up before taking it out of the oven to cool and going to bed. If it was cake it would get frosted in the morning and if it wasn't it would cool ready to be eaten in the morning.

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and so I found myself up late baking again, something I haven't done in a while. And as it was my birthday I baked something just for me. A treat that isn't found here in the UK (if it is I have never seen it), a treat that reminded me of home. Lemon Bars. I can't remember the last time I had one.

My extensive baking book collection uncovered several recipes for lemon bars and all of them were pretty much the same. So, here is how I made these buttery tart lemon bars.

Lemon Bars: 


160g plain flour
70g icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt
114g unsalted butter, cubed*

Grease a 9x9 inch square baking tin with butter, I use the wrapper of the my block of butter, dust gently with flour and tap out the excess. Heat the oven to 170C

Sift all the dry ingredients together and using your finger tips combine the butter into the flour, sugar, and salt until it resembles bread crumbs. Pour into the prepared baking tin and press it down into the corners and try to get it as even as possible. Bake for about 15 minutes. Allow it to bake and cool while get on with the

lemon filling:

3 large eggs
200g sugar
about 100ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed (2-3 lemons)
lemon zest from about 2-3 lemons
40g plain flour
pinch of salt

Beat the eggs until frothy using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Add the sugar little by little, until just combined. Beat in the lemon juice and zest on medium high for a minute or two until combined. Mix in the flour and salt and then poor over the baked crust and bake for 15 more minutes. The edges should be slightly browned and the top should have tiny bubbles. Leave to cool for at least an hour or if you're like me over night. Cut and sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.

*tip - for the butter in the crust bring it out of the fridge just as you are measuring ingredients. You don't want it to be room temperature or worse melting.

Not only do I stay up late baking, I stay up late blogging too. I wonder why I don't like mornings, but I think it's pretty obvious that I stay up way too late! Wether you are a late night baker or not I hope you enjoy them! 

*inspiration from - Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding, Betty Crocker Red Cookbook, and Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

COMPTOIR LIBANAIS {restaurant review}

I have been to pretty much every restaurant on the Riverside and even ones that aren't there any more. However, there are only a few I actually go back to time and time again. Now this was my first visit to Comptoir Libanais (literally means Lebanese Counter) since it opened last year on The Oracle's Riverside - it is literally on the river and has a nice view of said river. That aside the food was good and I don't think it will be my last visit to this restaurant. 

My friend and I were in town and decided we were hungry, but we didn't know what for? It's a common thing with us never being able to agree or decide on what to eat. The only thing we did know and agree on was the fact that we hungry, but not that hungry and were looking for a reasonable meal with a reasonable price. 

Eating out is a luxury and that's why it's important to have a good experience. We were greeted when we walked in and pretty much seated right away. The waitress was informative and helped us decide on final choices. The food came so quick and it was delicious. 

As I mentioned above we were hungry, but not that hungry so we both went with a wrap. I went with the Chicken Taouk Wrap - it was stuffed with marinated chargrilled chicken, pickled cucumber, tomato & garlic sauce. My friend went with the Falafel Wrap (he is a vegetarian) which has chickpeas, broad beans, coriander, garlic, peppers, tomato, pickled turnip, parsley and a tahini sauce. 

By the recommendation of our lovely waitress we tried the Batata Harra or Lebanese spiced fries with red peppers, fresh coriander, garlic & chilli. They were good and we dipped them in garlic mayo and I believe a chilli mayo. 

I think on my next visit I will be trying the hot and cold Mezze (a selection of dishes). I think I would visit here again, I don't go out all that often and it's nice to know where you can go to get a good meal. 

The Riverside
The Oracle Shopping Centre
Bridge Street

*I was not asked to visit nor review this restaurant I just figured as it was literally the only one I hadn't visited on the riverside and I had a good experience there that I would share it with you! If you have been let me know what you like to get in the comments below! 

The Only Brownie Recipe you will ever need! (Raspberry & Toffee Brownies)

I have been blogging for a long time and at one point it was almost an obsession. But blogging was easy because I loved everything to do with what I was blogging about - baking.

I still enjoy baking and I still love reading cookbooks - it's why you still see quite a few book reviews on here - I even enjoy writing and taking photos, but my life now has limited extra time for those things, I have different priorities, hence why my frequency of posts has dropped so dramatically.

The one thing I don't enjoy is the stress and anxiety of social media. So, I have found a platform I enjoy (instagram) and use it as and when I get an opportunity I go on twitter and facebook and update things, but I no longer stress about how many likes or retweets I get.

I was asked once why I blogged and I answered mostly for me. And for my love for baking, reading, writing, photography etc.... blogging was and is my creative outlet and if I get a few loyal readers or lots of people dropping by great! But it's not why I blog.

The internet is a hard place to live in and understand.

These brownies are a recipe that I have tried and tested over and over again and thankfully aren't that hard to understand. I originally got this recipe from a BBC Good Food Magazine and the other day I opened up one of their issues and it was in there again, because it is literally that easy and good.

It has been adjusted over and over and to be honest this batch of brownies I couldn't even tell you what I put in them exactly. I just sort of threw it all together. But if you want to throw a batch together this is how you could do it.

Brownies: raspberry & toffee

200g dark chocolate chips
100g milk chocolate chips
250g salted butter
250g light brown sugar
150g dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
10g espesso powder
100g fresh raspberries
100g toffee, chopped

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line a brownie pan or 8in square pan with parchment paper.
Very gently melt both chocolates with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and espresso powder into the pan and stir until just combined.
Gently fold about half of the raspberries and toffee into the mixture, pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining raspberries and toffee over the top.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for a minimum of 35 minutes. If you are using the 8 inch square pan you may want to give them an extra 5 minutes, if you are using a brownie pan or a 9 inch pan then I would still closer to the 35 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into squares and eating!

As mentioned the original recipe was not mine own, however this recipe only resembles the original, as was modified to fit what was in my cupboards! 

If try these out let me know how you adjust them in the comments below, I am always looking for ways to make the different! 

Here are a few of the adjustments I have made over the years: (Each one is linked to the relevant post if you want to see pictures!)


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