lemon polenta cake {inspired by We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman} (recipe)

Recently I started thinking about the days when I used to bake and blog a couple times a week, being a blogger and somewhat of an influencer before the word influencer was used to describe what I was doing for fun. I miss it, but it is work. Fun work, but work. 

Before the blog post there is the planning/inspiration, the shopping and cost of ingredients, then the baking and the clean up. After that you have the photo taking and editing and the writing... 

Once you get the blog post up it's the self promotion. Have you used the right hashtags? Making sure you post at the right times to try and get the most views. And now so much has changed. I have to make reels or tiktoks? Who reads blogs anymore? 

I loved it as a creative outlet when I was at home with the kids, but now a days life is different. Life is always changing. 

Netgalley gifted me an ecopy of *We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman - it's a devastatingly beautiful and sorrowful story about how one's life changes when your best friend is diagnosed with cancer. 

One of the things that Edi wants is a Sicilian lemon polenta pound cake that she came across once at a bakery and never saw again. So, there is a hunt for the recipe in the book. This is not the above, but it is a damn tasty polenta cake from the gorgeous Nigella. It can be found on her website as well as in her book Kitchen. 

lemon polenta cake: 

200g soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta (or cornmeal)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (save juice for syrup)
juice of 2 lemons
125 grams icing sugar

Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch circle or square cake tin (grease sides with butter if needed)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/ 350°F.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and soft. 
Mix the dry ingredients together (almonds, polenta, baking powder) and then beat a third of it into the butter mixture, then add one egg and beat until combined, alternate again with another third of the dry ingredients, egg, and then the last of the dry mixture; mixing well between each addition. 
Lastly add the lemon zest and then scrap into your prepared tin, I used a spatula to smooth it into the corners. Pop it into the oven and bake for 40 minutes. 

I left mine in accidentally for a few extra minutes, but when it comes out it make still look a little wobbly, but if the cake tester comes out mostly clean you are good, it also will cave a little in the middle that is normal. Leave to cool in the tin, while making the lemon sugar syrup. 

Which one makes by boiling the lemon juice and icing sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Using the cake test or something similar using anything bigger will be destructive to the cake according to Nigella, pour the warm syrup slowly over the cake, I used a brush to spread it over the top to stop it just pooling in the middle. Leave to cool completely in the tin before taking out and cutting up into 12-16 squares/slices (depending on how you want to distribute it)! Enjoy!

> Will keep for 5-6 days and is suitable for freezing just make sure you wrap it up tight and eat within a month. 

"Everyone dies, and yet it's unendurable. There is so much love inside of us. How do we become worthy of it? And, then, where does it go? A worldwide crescendo of grief, sustained day after day, and only one tiny note of it is mine." - Catherine Newman 

* I really enjoyed this story, the writing style was different, but once adjusted to it was easy to follow. Not sure I particularly liked the characters, but that didn't stop me from relating to what they were going through and it gave me room to question how I would feel or respond in a similar situation. Also appreciated that it didn't cover up the real and horrible sides of watching someone you love die. Out now!

Coffee & Walnut Cake {inspired by the Brenda and Effie series by Paul Magrs}

It's the best when you read a great book and are inspired by what you find in the pages of that book. For me it's usually food related, but that's not always it. But it is for this post. 

Paul Magrs wrote a book called Never the Bride about an older woman who lives in a little English sea side town where weird things happen to her and her best friend. She's not all that she seems and I suspect neither is her friend. He then followed it up with Something Borrowed, it was in this book after Brenda and Effie (the two heroines I just mentioned) saved the day yet again and were celebrating in there favorite cafe, The Walrus and the Carpenter, with coffee and cake. Not just any cake an English classic more specifically this cake.

Coffee Walnut Cake: 

225g caster sugar
225g soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
4 large eggs
50g walnut pieces, chopped
200g plain flour
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 - 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan and line and grease two 20cm / 8inch cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one by one until just mixed. Mix the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and walnuts into the batter and mix until just combined. Add the milk a little at a time until the batter is drop like constancy.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge feels springy to the touch. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the baking parchment; once they are completely cool you can make the buttercream.

350g icing sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
2½ tsp instant espresso powder (dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water)
approx. 10 walnut halves (to decorate)

Place the butter into a mixing bowl and beat for a minute or two before shifting in the icing sugar and espresso mixture. Beat until smooth and lighter in color. 

to finish: Place one layer on your stand/plate and spread about half of the frosting on the first layer and then place the other layer on top and frost it before decorating the edges with the walnut halves. 

page from Something Borrowed by Paul Magrs

Up next in the Brenda and Effie series is Conjugal Rites and I can't wait to see what they get up to next!! 

Note: The recipe is loosely adapted from a Nigella recipe from her book Kitchen, also found on her website here

You Can't Fake Passion {black bottom cupcakes}

"You can't fake passion." -Barbara Corcoran

It was years ago now that I went on a training course for a job I no longer have. It was on this training course we were asked to describe something that we enjoyed doing. It was obvious that some of the people on that training course with me said what they said just to get the exercise out of the way. But those who really enjoyed the subject they were talking about ... well, you could hear it in their tone, see it in their facial expressions, their body language. Their passion shone through. 

The company we were all there for were hoping to show us that if we talked about them that way their customers would hear it and see it and then not only believe in us, but the company. Allowing us to essentially sell to people. I have no regrets in my life, but I wish I had paid more attention to my response, because I was one of those people who had the tone and the look. 

If you like me are trying to find their way to back to that thing that brings them passion maybe talk about it out loud to yourself and really listen to your response. Record it if it helps. 

It's always been easier to find mundane jobs to get me through life. The fear of not being good enough at something I feel passionate about has always been really scary and have always kept those things to the side never thinking it's something maybe I could do as a career. 

Maybe it's time to re-think that. 

Are you passionate about your career? or do you save your passion for your hobbies? 

Sometimes keeping your passion separate from what earns you your money is best because when what you are passionate about becomes work you can loose some of that passion. Everyone will balance it differently and everyone feels differently but at the end of the day it's what makes you happy. We all deserve to be happy. 

Cupcakes make me happy and I do have a passion for baking. I don't know that it's the thing that I would want to earn money doing, but in my free time nothing picks up my mood better then spending it in the kitchen whipping up a cake or cookies or brownies. These turned out so well and they are made with oil not butter and it is my personal opinion that chocolate cake is always better when made with oil. 

Recipe can be found in the hummingbird bakery cookbook ---- also can be found on my TikTok (yes I have TikTok :/ I don't know what has become of me. lol) This isn't the first time I have ever talked about them on my blog! First post mentioning Black Bottom Cupcakes can be found here if you are interested in seeing how my photography skills have improved.  

Also posting about everything and anything over on Instagram come chat!

Coconut & Lemon Bakewell (recipe review) Inspired by Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton

Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton is the third instalment of the trilogy that started with Heart of Thorns and followed by Tears of Frost. Soul of Cinder picks up right where Tears of Frost left off with Mia and Pilar on another journey, but not really sure of where they are going. What they do know is that after having just found each other the worst thing would be to lose the other one, but it's hard to support someone when you are still trying to figure out what it is you need or want. 

The whole series is a journey of these amazing characters over coming hardships and set backs only to finally grow into who they were always meant to be. People who can make real change in a really messed up world. I don't know what else to say without giving anything away that happens in the previous books! All I can say is that I highly recommend this series, it has some really good twists and although set in a fantasy setting is one of the most real series I have read in a while.*

On to the the Coconut and Lemon Bakewell in Soul of Cinder when Mia and Pilar arrive in this new land one of the first things they expreience is a lemon coconut.

Where the image of what this hybrid fruit would look like, in my head, is still inclusive it didn't take much of a stretch to know what it would taste like and that I would have immediately thought of all the things I could bake with it!!

I finally settled on a Coconut & Lemon Bakewell Tart! I do live in England and a Bakewell Tart is a classic so why not? I found this recipe in John Whaite Bakes by John Whaite winner of The Great British Bake Off season 3! For this recipe you will need time to make the pastry as it needs to rest before baking so if time is an issue you could make the pastry dough the night before. 

Short Crust Pastry: 

250g plain flour
125g salted butter, cubed
1 large egg
cold water
1 egg white, beaten (you need the yolk so keep it!)

- In a bowl rub the flour and butter together with your hands until it resembles bread crumbs. You want to do this quick as not to allow the heat from your hands melt the butter to much. Add the egg and 1 tsp of water and bring the pastry dough together. Add water sparingly if needed until the mixture comes together. Knead gently for just a moment before wrapping in baking paper and resting in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry, line your 10 inch/25cm loose bottomed tart tin with pastry pressing it into the grooves and trimming the edges off. Don't forget to prick the base with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. 

Make the filling(s)

frangipane filling: 

175g unsalted butter, room temp
175g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
85g desiccated coconut 
90g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour
zest of 2 lemons

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until just combined, then fold in the coconut, almonds, flour and zest. The mixture looks a bit funny, but trust me it's okay! Fill a piping bag with the mixture and put to the side. 

lemon curd filling:

150g lemon curd
1 egg yolk

Mix the lemon curd with the egg yolk and set aside. 

continue: Preheat the oven to 190C or 170C fan. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice or whatever it is you use and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven and take away the baking beads and blind bake for 12 minutes. After that take the pastry out and brush over the egg white, it helps avoid a soggy bottom and pop into he oven for another minute! 

Let the pastry cool slightly before layering first the lemon curd mixture and then carefully pipe on the frangipane filling. I smoothed mine out before popping into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It should be golden brown and slightly wobbly when it comes out of the oven. Allow to cool completely before icing!

for the icing:

250g icing sugar
2 tbsp of water 
desiccated coconut and lemon zest to top

Mix the icing sugar and water together it should become a pourable but thick icing. If need be add a little more water but add it little by little so it doesn't become too runny. Top with coconut and lemon zest! 

Soul Cinder by Bree Barton is out now!!! I bought my own copy all opinions are my own. I made a recipe inspired by the first book in the series Heart of Thorns! That can be found here!! 

*Please note the series does delve into sexual assault and depression. 

John Whaite Bakes is an old book and I was sent it to review back in 2013 when it was published, but besides the book I did not receive any other compensation. It is a great book and have made several recipes from it! Full review of the book is here!! 

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies {recipe review}

It's officially summer, but my children are still in school for another week or so and it's all a go with plays and projects and school visits. Then they will be off and it will be the juggle of work and keeping them entertained. 

Although it sounds as if I am complaining I'm not. I enjoy my time with my children and can't wait to spend time with them! I recently made them these cookies and they have requested them again so I have it on the list to make them over the summer holidays. 

Recipe was adapted from Eric Lanlard's Afternoon Tea book - which weirdly I have never reviewed here on my blog. Eric Lanlard has several books and I own all of them because he is one of my absolute favorites and if you ever come across one of his books you should get it! 

These cookies were amazing. I changed a few things so the recipe below reflects how I made them! 

Peanut butter Banana Cookies 

125g mashed ripe banana (approx 2 small bananas or 1 large banana)
100g crunchy peanut butter
70g butter, melted
50g dark brown sugar
85g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
200g self-rising flour
2 tsp baking powder
30g dark chocolate chips 
20g peanut butter chips 
- 50g dark chocolate chips & 50g peanut butter chips

Gently beat the banana, peanut butter, and butter together until combined. Then mix in both sugars and the vanilla bean paste until just combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the peanut butter mixture. Then fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Form a dough and cover in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or over night. 

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas mark 4 - Line your baking sheets with baking paper. Using an ice cream scoop out the dough and place on the prepared baking sheets, leave space between the cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes, I know my oven has a hot spot so about half way though I rotated my baking sheets and swamped one from the top shelf to the bottom shelf. 
(Makes about 9 cookies using the ice cream scoop, you can make them smaller the baking time is roughly the same but check on them at about 10 minutes.)
Leave the cookies to cool, while cooling gently melt the dark chocolate chips and peanut butter chips together, us using your preferred method. Some people put a bowl on to a swimming pan of water, some use a microwave, I just pop them into my heavy bottom pan and melt it on a low heat. Then place the melted chocolate into a piping bag or a sandwich bag snip the tip and drizzle across the cookies. 

Bananas go off so quickly this recipe is a great way to use them up and they taste amazing!! Did you know you can also freeze your ripe bananas? If you are using frozen bananas just let them defrost slightly and drain off any liquid before using them in the recipe. 

If you make them let me know via twitter or instagram - I love sharing everyone's photos! 

Apple Crumble Muffins {recipe}

Whenever someone says they don't know how to bake or they aren't good at baking I always try to encourage them to start with muffins. You cannot go wrong with muffins and if you comment and say yes you can I fucked some up one time. I will stand corrected, but I assure you that they are pretty easy and straight forward.

In the past 9 months or so I have become somewhat of a bookstagrammer. What is a bookstagrammer? Well, it's a made up word that smooshes book and instagrammer together and indicates people who share pictures of books and talk only of books.

And it is through this lovely amazing community that I have met some fun people a couple in person. One lovely person (find her here) and I did a book swap and along with the book she sent me a recipe for these Apple Crumble Muffins.

So, I just had to try them out! I am glad I did, they turned out great and the bonus was that my flat smelt like apples and cinnamon.

Apple Crumble Muffins: 

Crumble -

150g plain flour
150g light brown sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
85g salted butter, melted*

Whisk the dry ingredients together before mixing in the melted butter, use a fork or a whisk to sort of mash it together until it resembles crumbs. As seen in the pictures. *I didn't have salted butter so I added a pinch of salt.

Apple Muffins -

100ml veggie oil
85g light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
130ml buttermilk
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
300g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
approx. 2 apples, peeled and chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 190C or 170Cfan and line your muffin tin with paper liners.
Whisk the oil, brown sugar, caster sugar, and buttermilk together until just combined.
Add eggs one at a time and whisk until just combined. Stir through the vanilla extract.
Gradually add the flour to the mixture and mix until just combined, you don't want to over mix. Fold in the apples.
Divide the batter between the paper cases, about 3/4 full. Then generously add the crumble topping to each muffin press down lightly, otherwise while baking it can just fall off.
Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on your oven, I know I have a tricky spot in one corner of my oven so after 10 minutes I rotate my muffin tin.

While you are waiting for them to bake, take my advice and clean up so you don't have to deal with that shit later and get your coffee and book ready!

The Power of Sprinkles by Amirah Kassem {a book review}

The power of sprinkles indeed.

I don't think I know a single person who doesn't smile or get excited when presented with something that is full of color and this book along with our author, Amirah Kassem, is full of color and fun!

Amirah grew up in a home where her mom was always baking and creating and as she grew up she followed in her mother's footsteps baking for her close friends and family; presenting them with cakes that were suited just for them. She had a stint in the fashion world as the colors and textiles drew her in, but her love of baking never stopped.

She continued to create cakes for the people around her and when they started asking where the cakes were bought from she decided to take a step in that direction, baking 6 layer cakes that were so beautiful you almost wouldn't want to eat them, in her very own bakery cleverly named Flour Shop in New York City.

For those of us who don't live in New York and might not get an opportunity to visit her bakery, we have her book. The Power of Sprinkles. This book is visually stunning. It's bright and colourful, but it is more then just eye candy... it's creative, clever, and thoughtful.

She shares with us 35 different cakes for all occasions I will just show you some of my favorites.....

We get a lovely insight into Amirah's life and she shares with us the most important cake in the book: The Rainbow Explosion Cake. It's the most important because it gives us all the techniques and tips and tricks we will need to create these amazing cakes.

Those tips and tricks cover a vanilla cake recipe, magical frosting, tools and tips for frosting cakes, colors and dyes to use, sprinkle science, working with chocolate, and layering the cakes - everything you will need to create your own masterpieces.

I myself am not much of a decorator and normally I would look at these pictures and feel a bit daunted, but her writing exudes a confidence that makes me feel I am capable of creating these cakes.  Maybe a few of them require a bit more experience, but there are just as many that don't require as much experience and effort as you might think.

If you are looking to expand your baking profile or need some inspiration as Amirah's story is definitely uplifting check this book out!!

The Flour Shop - 177 Lafayette St. NY, NY 10013

*I was provided a copy of The Power of Sprinkles: a cake book by Amirah Kassem to review by the publisher, abrams&chronicle books, retails at £17.99 and available now on Amazon! 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.