Victoria Sponge Traybake

With the sad news of the Queen dying last week, my thought turned to regal bakes, something to cook in honour of the amazing dedication and duty she showed to our country. There can’t be much that is more royal than a Victoria sponge, and i’m sure it must have been a cake the Queen particularly enjoyed.

There’s something about a traybake that’s both enticing and homely, it’s like a friendly version of a sandwich cake and makes the perfect teatime treat. So to honour and show my respect to Queen Elizabeth II, here is my Victoria Sponge traybake (with a marbled raspberry sponge variation). It may add to the process to fill with dollops of raspberry jam but it is a fantastic addition and really cuts through the sweetness and also makes the bake even more reminiscent of a proper Victoria sponge. If you prefer you could spread a layer of jam onto of the sponge and then top with the buttercream, but it may be best to pipe on the buttercream to make sure you keep the layers distinct.

Victoria Sponge Traybake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 1 20cm square traybake, serves 9

185g self-raising flour

1 tbsp custard powder (or cornflour)

110g caster sugar

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp dairy-free yoghurt

50g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp raspberry essence, optional

1/2 tsp natural red food colour, optional

1 tsp freeze-dried raspberry pieces, optional

9 tsp raspberry jam

sprinkles/decorations of choice

for the buttercream:

60g dairy-free butter

140g icing sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 20cm square cake tin with parchment

2. In a large bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, custard powder, caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted margarine, and yoghurt.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine to form a smooth batter. Either pour straight into the lined tin and level off.

5. Or, if you would like a raspberry marbled sponge, divide the batter into two bowls. Add the raspberry essence, food colour and freeze dried raspberries to one of the bowls and mix to make a bright pink batter. Place alternate dollops of the batters into the cake tin and marble together with a blunt knife.

6. Place into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cake has risen and turned a little golden. Check it is cooked through but testing with a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.

7. Cool on a wire rack

8. Once cool, make 9 little insertions into the cake (i used an apple corer), fill with the jam and then place the little cake lids back on top.

9. Make the buttercream by whisking together all the ingredients until you have a light and fluffy icing.

10. Spread the buttercream over the traybake, sprinkle with decorations and cut into 9 equal squares.

Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

Isn’t it tradition that you should eat hot cross buns on Good Friday? Well, it might be tight but you may just get these done in time!

I love making hot cross buns, i think it’s the warm spices that make the house smell heavenly whilst they’re baking. Besides, I think there is also something a bit special about seasonal bakes. You need to make the most of them whilst they’re around, so it’s hot cross buns for breakfast and tea all weekend! Ok, I know you can probably buy hot cross buns all year these days, but somehow that feels wrong – why not make them special and only make and eat them at Easter time, then you’ll appreciate them far more.

All of my hot cross bun recipes are great, have you tried the sticky toffee ones or the vanilla and spice, they’re both super special. But this recipe takes the texture and longevity up a notch. I’m using a technique i’ve recently learnt about creating a moister, brioche type dough. I’ve adapted the recipe to give a good double dosing of spice, easy measurements and an option of chocolate or sultanas (for some reason my family hate sultanas so I always have to make a choc chip version instead!) The resulting texture is so perfect, i’d definitely recommend giving these a go. Besides, the added fat gives a better shelf life and they keep loosely covered for a good 4 or 5 days (and they also freeze brilliantly). I know it’s already Good Friday, but i won’t tell anyone if you want to keep having these for the next few weeks too 😉

Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, and vegan)

Makes 18

500g strong bread flour

7g instant dried yeast

75g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

340ml dairy-free milk

75g dairy-free butter (the one in paper rather than a tub)

75g chocolate, chopped or 75g sultanas

25g dried mixed peel.

  1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices into a bowl or a tabletop mixer bowl. Add the milk and bring to a dough. Knead for 10-20 minutes until you have a lovely elastic dough.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and gradually knead into the dough. Make sure each bit is fully incorporated before adding the next bit. You should end up with a glossy elastic dough.
  3. Add in the chocolate/sultanas and mixed peel, make sure they’ve evenly spread.
  4. Cover with cling film and prove in the bowl for 30 minutes.
  5. Then line two baking sheets with parchment. Knock back the dough and divide into 18 even sized pieces. Roll into balls and place well spread on the baking sheets.
  6. Cover and prove at room temperature for 4-5 hours until about doubled in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan/170 degrees non-fan
  8. Make a batter for the crossed (equal flour and water) and pipe onto the top of the buns.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with a hot sugar syrup (equal sugar and water, briefly brought to the boil)
  11. Enjoy fresh or keep loosely covered for up to 5 days.

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

Hoppy Easter! There’s not much cuter than a fun animal themed cupcakes, especially if it’s Easter bunny themed!

What could be more fun than some joyously decorated easter cupcakes, and these Easter bunnies borrowing into their cupcake burrows are sure to bring a smile to anyone who is lucky enough to be given one. I got the idea from a picture I saw online (sadly I can’t take full credit for the cute look) but have adapted this BBC Good Food idea into a Lucy’s Friendly Foods version. I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this cute addition to Easter.

As it’s Easter, it’s almost obligatory for chocolate to feature so the base of these cupcakes is a delicious rich and moist chocolate sponge – besides, in my opinion the chocolate makes it resemble a rabbit borrow, just a little bit!

I’ve made my Easter bunnies white, for some reason that seemed right, and so it’s vanilla heavy buttercream mounds garnished with fondant icing bunny feet and tails. You just need about ¼ of a pack of white fondant (Sainsbury’s own brand is may contain nuts but not peanuts, or Beau brand you can buy from Nutfree Marketplace is good for everyone)

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, seam-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

Makes 6-8 cupcakes

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dairy-free margarine, melted

140g self-raising flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a jug combine the milk, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and bicarb. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine, set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Pour the melted margarine into the milk mixture and give it a good stir. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together to form a smooth batter. 
  6. 2/3rds fill each cupcake liner and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

White Vanilla Buttercream

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

enough to generously cover the 6-8 cupcakes in the recipe above

75g dairy-free butter or margarine

275g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

½ tbsp dairy-free milk

Plus about ¼ pack fondant icing and a few drop of pink food colour

  1. Whisk the margarine until it is light and fluffy
  2. Add the icing sugar, vanilla paste and dairy-free milk and whisk until you have a light buttercream.
  3. Pipe or spread a generous amount onto the top of each cooled cupcake

To decorate: pipe or spread a mound of white buttercream  onto the middle of each cupcakes. Smooth well so it could look like a bunny bottom. Secure on two back feet (with pink toe beans for added cuteness) and a bunny tail, both of which are moulded out of fondant icing.

Sensational Scones

You’ve got to love scones; light, fluffy, just sweet enough and the perfect carrier for a delicious topping. No proper afternoon tea is right without a batch of warm scones, and this recipe always goes down a storm. You can even freeze them, defrost, pop into the oven for a couple of minutes and then you can have an elegant afternoon tea in a flash.

When we had our stressful tea at Pan Pacific we met Cherish Finden and she said that scones were the most difficult thing to recreate free-from. Now these aren’t gluten-free (but I know others who make them gluten-free), but I can assure you that these are just as good as a traditional scone. Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think?


The most crucial part of scone making is a light touch – you must add air whilst rubbing in the margarine and definitely no kneading! Just very lightly bring together the dough and you’ll have some sensational scones. Just add some jam and dairy-free whipped cream and you can have a sensational tea at home.


Sensational Scones

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

  • makes 10-12
    • 450g plain flour
    • 3 tsps baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 75g dairy-free margarine
    • 70g soft brown sugar
    • 300ml dairy-free milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
    • 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the salt. Stir in the sugar.
  3. With your fingertips, gently rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and vanilla essence (if using).
  5. Bring together to a very soft, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and very gently bring together to a soft, smooth dough.
  6. Pat out with your fingers until 3 cm thick.– Cut out with a well-floured 6cm cookie cutter (or whatever size you choose)
  7. Place on an oiled and floured baking sheet. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with Demerara or granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.– Cool on a wire rack.

Tropical Granola Bars

 There’s something so handy about a cereal or granola bar, the can fit into so many situations – breakfast on the run, a quick pre-lunch snack, a picnic staple, or a post-workout refuel. As people are heading back into offices, these could be the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich in a packed lunch.

 When I used to go into an office regularly I always felt super pleased if I had a homemade packed lunch addition, rather than an additive filled less superior shop bought bar; hopefully these will make you just as pleased too 😊

This recipe is loosely based upon Yotam Ottolenghi’s Granola Bar recipe form the original ‘The Cookbook’, so you know they have good pedigree, and they have to taste delicious.

 

Tropical Granola Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan, can be gluten-free if use gluten-free oats)

 Makes 8 large bars

 

22g dried cranberries or sultanas

22g dried mango, chopped

22g dried pineapple, chopped

120g oats

22g sunflower seeds

15g desiccated coconut

50g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup or honey

50g demerara sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

 

  1. Place the dried fruits into a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Then drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, drained dried fruit and coconut and set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan melt together the margarine, syrup and sugar until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  6. Fold in the oat and fruit mixture, adding the salt and cinnamon. Make sure the mixture is well combined.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined loaf tin, press down and level off.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Remove from the tin and cool completely before cutting into bars.
  10. These bars keep well for up to a week if placed in an airtight container.

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

These are not just any cupcakes, these are the very best chocolate cupcakes. A deep chocolate flavoured light and fluffy sponge, topped with a rich and intense chocolate buttercream, even Marks & Spencer’s would market these as the best! If you’re stuck a home today due to the massive storm, you might want to make these (you’ll likely have all the ingredients in) and cheer everyone up.

I’ve got out of the habit of making cupcakes; I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I don’t so often cook for whole classes of children anymore. I used to bake a sweet treat for the girls classes every Friday when they were in junior school, now it’s more like once a term and cookies often trump cupcakes because they’re so much easier to transport. But there is nothing like a good cupcake, and these double chocolate delights are a class above. 

This recipe serves 6 or so, just the right amount for a houseful on a Friday night after school, but you could easily multiply the recipe if you have more to feed – after all, no-one would want to miss one of these!

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

Makes 6-8 cupcakes

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dairy-free margarine, melted

140g self-raising flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a jug combine the milk, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and bicarb. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine, set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in the sugar
  5. Pour the melted margarine into the milk mixture and give it a good stir. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together to form a smooth batter. 
  6. 2/3rds fill each cupcake liner and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

 For the chocolate buttercream:

enough to generously cover the 6-8 cupcakes in the recipe above

75g dairy-free margarine

250g icing sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tbsp dairy-free milk

 

  1. Whisk the margarine until it is light and fluffy
  2. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and dairy-free milk and whisk until you have a light buttercream.
  3. Pipe or spread a generous amount onto the top of each cooled cupcake

Iced Buns

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2014 photo!

Here we have another updated recipe. I rarely make Iced Buns but this has been another recipe that has gathered a lot of great comments and likes over the years, so it needed revisiting, updating and embellishing with some shiny new photos! (Although I have kept one of the previous photos just for my own nostalgia – haven’t cameras improved over the past years!)

Iced buns, viewed in the window of any English bakery, are a must for a collection of comfort food. For some reason they make me think of roaring fires and cosy knitwear – odd I know! Apparently some iced buns found in supermarkets are dairy-free, but I’ve never found any that are also nut-free – if you know of any safe brands please let me know?

Anyway, these iced buns are the perfect tea time treat, and this recipe will give you authentic but friendly buns to please your friends and family. They certainly go down a treat in this house 🙂

Iced Buns 

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6

  • 150ml dairy-free milk
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 260g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3g or 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar

for the icing:

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water

– Melt the margarine into the milk (don’t make it more than tepid though)
– Place the flour, salt, yeast and caster sugar in a bowl and pour in the warmed milk and margarine mixture.
– Bring to a dough and knead until smooth and bounces back when you press a finger onto the surface.
– Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to double in size in a warm place.
– Divide into 6 even sized pieces and form into balls, then roll out to sausage shapes, trying to make them nice and even.
– Place about 1cm apart on a lined baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/180 degrees fan, or gas mark 4
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and they sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

– Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and water to form a very thick, smooth icing. Start by adding 1 tbsp of water and gradually add more as required.
– Once the buns are cool top with the thick water icing.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf

A good banana loaf recipe is a winning addition to any baking repertoire, and this update of a 2013 recipe, it’s one you definitely need in your life. I have others, but this loaf is a cut above the rest with the additions of Lotus Caramelised spread (you could use peanut butter), roasted bananas and large chunks of rich, dark chocolate. By all means use nuts or dried fruit instead of the chocolate, or even just leave them out, it will still work nicely, but make sure you roast the bananas for that extra special banana flavour. That’s the key to this one.

This is a beautiful loaf just plain, but if you want a bit of pizazz then i’d recommend either a water icing drizzle, or the extra special biscoff drizzle.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 2lb loaf

  • 100ml or 1/2 cup oat milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 125g or 1 cup plain flour
  • 85g or 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flourless oil, I use sunflower
  • 2 medium roasted bananas, mashed
  • 75g or 1/3 cup Lotus caramelised spread
  • 50 g or 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • glaze: icing sugar and water, or 1 tbsp biscoff spread, 3 tbsp icing sugar and 1 tbsp water whisked til smooth

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4

– Halve the bananas lengthways and roast for 20-30 minutes. Mash and cool.

– Line or grease a 2 lb loaf tin

– Add the lemon juice to the oat milk and set aside.

– Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– Add the bananas, caramelised spread and oil to the oat milk mix. Stir well

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the chopped chocolate (if using) and gently stir to make sure they’re evenly distributed.

– Fill the loaf tin with the mix.

– Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

– Drizzle with a simple water icing.

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Bounty flapjacks

Well , doesn’t it truly feel like we’ve been in January for about 3 months so far? What is it about the post Christmas/New Year period where everything seems to slow down and weeks drag on forever?

It also means that we’re well back into the routine of packed lunches and working lunches, so I needed some tasty additions to pop in along with the usual sandwiches. Flapjacks are a brilliant packed lunch option – they’re slow release energy oats but also bundles of sugar to keep the spirits and energy levels up. People seem to presume that flapjacks are healthy because they’re made of oats, all I can say is that they surely have never made their own as they’d know how much sugar/syrup they contain!

We particularly like coconut flapjacks, and this recipe is a riff on that, Bounty flapjacks featuring a coconutty flapjack base and then a dark chocolate and coconut topping. These little bites of paradise will certainly help you get through the never ending January days!

Bounty Flapjacks

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

  • 200g dairy free margarine
  • 200g demerara sugar
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 400g oats (preferably not giant oats)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 85g dark dairy-free chocolate
  •  
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix in the oats and coconut (keeping aside 1 tbsp of coconut for the topping)
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the bars, sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top

Tomato and Olive Focaccia

Are you getting to that post Christmas stage when you’re running out of bread and all the fresh stuff? We were in desperate need of bread for lunch today and this recipe is just perfect. It’s quick to make so can be rustled up in a morning and you can use either plain or bread flour depending on what you have in the larder.

Since our lovely (if eventful!) meal at La Pala d’Oro in Malaga (see my post on Malaga with allergies), Little S has taken to olive focaccia; and as she’s recovering from a nasty bout of Covid (gosh, it really is an unpleasant virus) and an upsetting isolation over Christmas 😢, I wanted to make her something she’d really love. It’s not surprising that she finds olive focaccia delicious, as the salty olives give a wonderful pop of savoury flavour in the soft oily bread, it’s a match made in heaven. However, Big S is also no fan of olives, in fact nothing will persuade her they’re nice. So here we have a tomato focaccia half studded with olives and half without – then everyone is happy! This loaf is perfect served with a bowl of soup on a wintery lunchtime but also makes a superior snack at anytime, especially when dipped in a good quality oil and balsamic – yummy!

If you can find Belazu tomato and balsamic paste you will notice the difference – like all their products I’ve tried, they really do make exceptional pastes, sauces etc that add depth and interest to any dish.

 Tomato and Olive Focaccia

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 1 loaf

  • 250g plain or bread flour
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, I used Belazu tomato and balsamic paste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 150-160ml cold water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste mixed with 1 tbsp oil and sea salt for the top
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • A handful of olives
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast and salt.
  2. Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil, tomato paste and water.
  3. Bring together to form a slightly sticky dough, then knead well to make it smooth and silky. If you have a mixer with dough hooks, it would work perfectly.
  4. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on the work surface. Turn out the dough onto the oil and knead well again until the oil is incorporated into the dough.
  5. Place in a bowl and cover. Leave to double in size. This will take an hour or two.
  6. Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment.
  7. Knock back the dough and press into the lined baking tray, making sure it reaches the corners. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade/210 fan/Gas mark 7
  9. Drizzle the tomato and oil mix over the dough and then dimple the top of the focaccia with your fingertip and press in the olives and scatter on some sea salt and the oregano.
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden. Brush with a little more oil to give a lovely sheen and cool on a wire rack.
  11. Best eaten fresh, but will keep for a couple of days if well wrapped in parchment. Also freezes brilliantly.