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.

Holidays in Greece with allergies

View over Nidri, Skorpios and Meganisi

We’ve considered Greece as a holiday destination for years but usually opted for the safer (for us) option of France (D is fluent in French), but this year Greece it was, specifically Lefkada, one of the Ionian Islands. It was a long awaited holiday, postponed twice due to Covid and so we had high expectations. In fact, Lefkada delivered exactly what we’d hoped for from a Greek island holiday – wonderful sunny weather, stunning crystal blue sea, fun on beaches and boats and hillsides adorned with ancient olive trees and vibrant green Cypress. It was relaxing, restorative and just perfect, but……

It really wasn’t the easiest destination in  terms of allergies, and remember we’re concerned about milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame seeds. The different alphabet and our inability to understand Greek was a real problem. We self-catered in a villa (as is our choice even without allergies factored in) so had to visit plenty of supermarkets. The main Lefkada town had a couple of bigger supermarkets which were well stocked and had an impressive selection of some free-from products. There were plenty of dairy-free cheeses, butters, a few Alpro yoghurts and lots of dairy-free milk choices.

Bread was really difficult, as we’d expected. Luckily, I’d packed lots of wraps, pittas, bagel thins and focaccia as we only found some safe pittas on the last few days. As you might imagine with Greece, sesame was the biggest issue. We did find one loaf of Scar gluten-free bread, but only in the bigger AB Supermarket in Lefkada Town. The other supermarkets we visited were much smaller and certainly had no suitable bread, yogurts or cheese. We even found the selection of safe crisps was limited, no safe biscuits and even most sweets were not an option as European Hairbo now all seem to have a may contain milk warning. I’d definitely recommend making a trip to the bigger supermarkets and taking a list so you don’t forget anything!

Lovely quality fresh fruit and veg were available in all small scale shops but far more limited in the availability of more ‘specialist’ items.

The biggest problem was definitely having little understanding of the language. On the first day the girls saw a pina colada juice that looked tasty. They compared the highlighted ingredients with the words on our Equal Eats cards and it looked fine. Little S, being a cautious type took a small sip when we were at the villa, she thought it tasted odd. I tasted it and thought it was fine, so she had another sip and her allergy-senses went into overdrive – something made her stop and download a photo translation app to check the ingredients. This is when we noticed a little asterisk and an additional note saying the ‘powder’ contained 3% milk. Our hearts dropped as the villa was miles up a winding mountain road. Little S felt pretty bad, her throat tightened and she felt extremely uncomfortable. Luckily a double dose of anti-histamine was all that was needed, but it was a close call and a nasty start to the holiday. But we learnt a lesson, never presume, always double check, especially when you don’t fully understand the language.

The next tricky incident was in a restaurant when we wanted to order some chips and drinks to go along with our sandwiches. We asked what oil was used and the waitress looked bemused and said ‘the usual oil’, we pressed her further, again she said ‘the usual one’. So we had to get her to check in the kitchen, where she returned saying ‘the classic oil’. We did some google research and it turns out that olive oil in Greece is called classic oil – makes total sense in the land of the olive, but you have to check and it still didn’t feel comfortable!

We ate out twice, both in more touristy locations. The first was an Italian restaurant in Nidri called Pomodoro – we chose this one because Trip Advisor had rave reviews about how helpful the waiter Spiros was, and also we tend to find Italian restaurants generally have something the girls can eat. Indeed Spiros the waiter was extremely friendly and accommodating; he double checked items and made sure we had a really tasty and safe Italian meal. The pizza was a no-go because the base contained milk, but there were a few pasta options, or grilled meats the girls could choose from. Big S had simple pasta pomodoro and Little S when for the l’amatriciana, the same as the pomodoro but with the addition of ham and bacon. They both declared their meals delicious, so it was a big hit. If you’re in Nidri I’d really recommend Pomodoro as a restaurant worth visiting.

We also had lunch at Nikiana Beach club – again it was more touristy so English was widely spoken and the chicken souvlaki and chips was entirely safe once the tzatziki was removed.

Safe souvlaki

Maybe we could have been more adventurous with eating out, but we like to play it safe and stuck mainly to good old packed lunches and eating in the villa. In fact, one day I had a complete allergy-parent fail. I’d made our picnic to take to the beach and had left it in the fridge until the last moment to try and keep it fresh. What did i do? Yep, that’s right, half-way to the other side of the island I remembered it was still in the fridge. It was too far to go back, so we went via the bigger supermarket and cobbled together a just about ok lunch!


Ice cream didn’t feature at all – we didn’t see any suitable and the only ice lollies we saw were Calippo which are may contain milk and so off the menu for us. Luckily fresh, delicious fruit juices seem to be a big thing so we opted for nice drinks instead of icy treats.

What would I do differently? Well, definitely download a photo translation app and double check all ingredients on packs. Although, even some products looked safe but when we double checked (extra cautious after day 1!) the may contains hadn’t been added to the English ingredient list. (Such as this choc cereal).

I’d also pack even more bread, as well as spices and sauces which we found in short supply in Greek shops. I’m pleased I took some breads, biscuits, chocolate, and things for sandwich fillers (Tartex vegetarian pate, marmite, Oatly creamy spread, chocolate spread and violife cheese slices) as none of the cooked meats were safe.

So all in all it wasn’t easy on the food front, we definitely needed to cook ourselves and bring plenty of food, but it was worth it for the idyllic scenery and sea. Greece, you are a stunning holiday destination 🙂

West coast

The Stable pizza restaurant is really good with allergies

We were lucky enough to have a short holiday in Cornwall during the recent heatwave which was glorious. There is nothing like the wind swept Cornish beaches in good weather. As usual we self-catered, not only because it’s easier and takes away a lot of stress, but we generally prefer to eat home cooked food! We stayed in Kingsand, a wonderful traditional Cornish fishing village on the Rame peninsula – it’s just like the popular tourist destinations of Port Isaac or Megavissey but a bit less touristy – I’d really recommend it as a great holiday destination. Since it’s on a peninsula it’s actually a long drive from Plymouth, despite being fairly close as the crow flies, you avoid a lot of the big summer crowds. On one day we took the ferry to Plymouth, not only for the transport but also to enjoy the ride. 


As we were out for the day we’d done some prior research on possible lunch destinations, not only allergy-friendly but also dog friendly as Luna our Cavapoo was on holiday with us too. Top of the google search for dog friendly restaurants in Plymouth was The Stable. Now, we’ve thought of trying out The stable before as we have a local one to us, but somehow have never got round to it. We thoroughly checked the allergen menu online and it looked like a good option.


It was actually a super allergy-friendly meal – we had a vegan garlic bread to start which was very tasty. This was followed by a meaty pizza with vegan cheese for Big S, a Hawaiian pizza with no cheese for Little S, and a veggie option for me. All were good and tasty, although the Hawaiian with no cheese was a little dry so we’d ask for extra tomato sauce next time. The waiter took time and care with our order, coming back to check a on options a couple of times and we felt comfortable eating there.

Garlic Bread
The meat is on pizza with vegan cheese
Hawaiian Five-Oh pizza with no cheese


So, if you’re out and about and come across a branch of The Stable I’d say it would definitely be worth giving it a go. There are plenty of vegan options, an entire gluten-free menu and there appear to be no peanuts on the menu, only sesame on the local Plymouth pizza, and the only nuts are may contain on the pudding menu.

Aubergine Kenobi Veggie pizza

Passion fruit crème brûlée served with passion fruit jellies

Crème brûlée is always a popular pud, I think it’s because everyone loves the thrill of cracking the thin caramalised sugar topping – a dessert with a bit of theatre is always a winner.

The idea for this recipe came from looking through Rick Stein’s French Odyssey in a holiday cottage in Cornwall. This book features a dairy and gelatine heavy passion fruit crème brûlée and passionfruit jellies and I thought it looked like a great flavour for a pudding. So here we have my friendly version, no eggs, cream or gelatine in sight, but a wonderful elegant pudding none-the-less. You could always serve just one or the other, but the combination of creamy crème brûlée  and the zippy jelly really works.

 I’m using Iota, otherwise known as carrageenan iota as a setting agent as it gives great results for a slightly wobbly jelly.


Passionfruit Crème Brûlée  

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


serves 4

50ml passionfruit puree

50ml dairy-free milk

150ml dairy-free cream

30g caster sugar

1 ½ tbsp cornflour

Another 1 ½ tsp passion fruit puree

4 tsp sugar, to top

  1. Place the 50ml passionfruit puree, milk and cream into a sauce pan. Stir in the sugar and start to heat

2.     Mix the cornflour and 1 ½ tbsp passion fruit puree together to form a smooth liquid

3.     Stir the cornflour paste into the warming cream mixture

4.     Continuously stirring bring the mixture to the boil, at which point it should have thickened. Turn off the heat and divide equally between 4 ramekins.

5.     Place in the fridge to set.

6.     When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each crème and blowtorch or place under the grill until you have a uniform, golden caramel layer. Serve immediately.

Passionfruit Jellies

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

makes 6 passionfruit jellies served in a half skin

3 passion fruits

50g water

1g Iota 

20g sugar

  1. Halve the passion fruits and scoop out the centres, sieve to get a lovely smooth puree. Take 1 tsp of the seeds and place back into the puree. Place in a saucepan with the water.
  2. Remove any membrane from the passionfruit skins and set aside.
  3. Mix together the Iota and sugar, pour into the passion fruit mixture and stir well. It will start to thicken straight away and then liquify when it heats.
  4. Stirring all the time, bring the mixture to a simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour into the empty passion fruit skins and place in the fridge to set


Eating at The Ivy with allergies

I’ve often thought that it might be nice to go to The Ivy as a family. Our local one is so beautifully decorated, and whilst it is just a brasserie chain, it feels a bit more special than most restaurants. We recently had reason to celebrate (end of exams) and so I contacted them directly to see if they could cater for us and was very happy to receive a positive response saying that they’re be extremely happy to cater for our needs and to speak with the waiter directly. Once I’d found it, the allergen menu online looked quite good and we were surprised that there was a variety of dishes that looked suitable. We still felt that familiar low level anxiety of trying somewhere new, but that’s not uncommon!


Well, it was a superb experience, well beyond our expectations and is definitely a restaurant we will return to. The waiter was fantastic, he immediately said he knew what everything contained, he took down our requirements seriously but without fuss or the wise-cracks that Little S in particular has to deal with. We’d checked the allergen menu and the sourdough bread looked safe so we ordered some, the waiter came back a few minutes later to say he’d been concerned that the information was not correct, had checked and found that it contained milk. Whilst it wasn’t reassuring that the allergen menu online was incorrect, we were pleased that the waiter clearly knew what he was talking about and had been extra vigilant.

We could see our order on the screen with a big allergy order alert which made us feel confident that the kitchen was aware of the order, and the message had got through. Big S ordered a minute steak with chips and watercress. She was given a red wine jus rather than the usual peppercorn sauce, and it came adorned with an allergy flag. The waiter said that they normally cook the steaks in garlic butter, hence why none appeared as options on the allergen menu, but Big S’s was cooked separately and safely. Little S had an option of three choices just from the children’s menu and more from the adult – this is almost unheard of! She chose grilled chicken with chips, tomato sauce and tender stem broccoli. Again it was a great option, came with the allergy flag, the portion size was huge for a kids meal. It was tasty, well cooked, well presented and it was wonderful she could order something off the menu without any alterations. Also, the chips were amazing!


I had a rather delicious halloumi dish with fregola and herb sauce – for a veggie option, care had been taken to give a really well thought out, interesting and tasty dish, rather than the usual afterthought that the veggie choice often is!


We didn’t order any puddings so didn’t check if any were possible, but the waiter did bring Big S a complimentary little raspberry compote with coconut yogurt and toasted coconut flakes to celebrate the end of her exams which was a really lovely touch.


It turns out that we vaguely know the head chef and have since passed on our thanks for a really good and safe experience. He was so pleased to get good feedback, and gave us a full run down of their allergy procedures. Everything is cooked separately, it’s checked three times, the manager takes responsibility to check again and it is even served on a separate tray. He seemed proud of their processes and I can see why, it made us feel confident and relaxed which is a very rare experience in a restaurant. 


So top marks and a big allergy applause for The Ivy – we will return with cautious (only because we’re an allergy family and it has to be that way!) confidence the next time we have something to celebrate.


Chocolate chip shortbread

There’s something so wonderfully tempting about shortbread – a not too sweet biscuit with a ‘buttery’ crumbly texture topped with a shower of sugar. They’re not only elegant but also extremely versatile. They work as a stand alone cookie, as an addition to a fine pudding or to sandwich a delicious filling; now that’s a multitasking cookie if ever I’ve come across one.

These shortbreads have the addition of rich dark chocolate chips which I feel compliments the ‘buttery’ crumbly dough. You may think you’d really miss the butter in shortbread, as so often it’s the selling feature with a ‘all butter’ tagline, but by using one of the firmer plant-butters you get a similar fat-rich ‘buttery’ mouth feel. Shortbread also keeps really well so fill up the biscuit tin and it’ll keep you going all week!


‘Buttery’ Chocolate Chip Shortbread

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

 makes about 16

150g plain flour

50g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

Pinch of salt

100g dairy-free butter, fridge cold and cubed

50g chocolate chips

20g caster sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt.
  2. Rub in the butter with your fingertips, or the mixer. As there is a large proportion of butter to flour you will form a dough pretty quickly after getting to the breadcrumb stage. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Briefly knead the dough to make it nice and smooth, and making sure the chocolate is evenly distributed.
  4. Between two sheets of parchment, roll out the dough to 3mm thick and then place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes
  5. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  6. Stamp out circles from the chilled dough and place, spaced apart onto a lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until starting to gain a hint of colour around the edges.
  8. Sprinkle with caster sugar whilst hot and then move to a wire rack to cool


Lime and ginger cheesecake

This is one of our family favourites, one of those puddings that often gets wheeled out when we have guests over, but for some reason I’ve never posted the full recipe.

This is a no-bake cheesecake (my favourite type) and the texture of the cheesecake layer is slightly softer than a conventional cheesecake, but it’s none the worse for it. The combination of ginger ‘buttery’ biscuit base and zingy lime cheesecake layer is certainly a match made in heaven. Although do feel free to swap the lime for lemon if you prefer, as that is an equally wonderful combination. This cheesecake has even been requested over a birthday cake before, so that gives you some indication how much we love it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do 🙂

I’ve decorated mine with candied lime slices, but a dusting of freshly grated lime zest is just as good.


Lime and Ginger Cheesecake

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


Makes one 16-18cm cheesecake

Prep time – 15 minutes

Chilling time – 1 hour +


140g ginger biscuits (approximately 14)

70g dairy-free margarine

300g dairy-free cream cheese

50-60g icing sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free yogurt

Juice and zest of 1 lime (1-2 tbsp juice)


  1. Prepare a springform or loose bottom 16-18cm cake tin by lining the base with parchment
  2. Crush the biscuits until they form a fine crumb
  3. Melt the margarine and then stir in the biscuit crumbs. Press into the base of the tin and then place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up
  4. In a food processor (or with a whisk), blend together the cream cheese, yogurt, 50g icing sugar, lime juice and zest. Make sure the mixture is smooth and well combined. Taste and add more icing sugar and/or lime juice as desired.
  5. Spread over the chilled base, level off and place in the fridge to firm up.
  6. Once ready to serve, sprinkle over some additional lime zest and remove from the tin.
  7. This cheesecake is best eaten fresh but will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge


Franco Manca – turns out it’s a good choice for allergies

We were in London for a day out in the Easter holidays. We often find it really hard to eat out when in London. It’s partly because we don’t want to waste too much of the day finding a restaurant and then waiting for the food to arrive, but also we don’t want to take risks and end up having a reaction, or just a stressful experience. So, more often than not, we end up eating the emergency sandwiches I always pack, and simply stop for a nice drink instead. When Yorica was around we always headed there for the best ice cream ever! Oh, we so miss Yorica!

We were just about to go and find somewhere to eat our emergency rations when we walked past a branch of Franco Manca on Old Brompton Road. Now, we’ve never eaten at a Franco Manca before but have heard good things about the chain catering well for allergies, and so we took the huge, brave step of walking in for lunch! Yes, it felt slightly nervy but also wonderfully spontaneous which is something we generally miss out on.

The menu is short and we were really surprised at what good value the pizzas were. To our delight the first pizza on the list was a marinara (tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and basil) with no cheese in sight – how wonderful! We ordered this as it’s a joy to order something on a menu without alterations and it was almost perfect. The base was deliciously chewy with charred bits and plenty of air bubbles – a really great pizza base. The tomato sauce was fresh, vibrant and light.

The only thing letting it down was the heavy handed addition of the oregano, which surely must have been a mistake because it was as if an entire jar had been tipped on top! We like oregano but this really was way too much! All in all it was a good, safe pizza but next time we’d ask for less oregano (!) and maybe add some toppings for extra interest. The vegan cheese on offer is Violife and there were plenty of meat and veg options to jazz it up. The beauty is you can start with a safe marinara and then add to it, rather than the trickier option of taking cheese off a pizza and then adding toppings instead. Even some of the dips were vegan, but we didn’t investigate further to see if they were totally safe.

I’d probably give Franco Manca 4* out of 5 mainly because the staff were efficient but a little brusk, I wasn’t 100% sure they’d got the message in our allergy order so watched like a hawk whilst the food was being prepared! Also, as it’s a pizza oven you have the potential for some cross contamination in the oven. But, having said that we had no issues and the food was good, safe and tasty, as well as being very good value. We’ll certainly eat at a Franco Manca again. 

We noticed a vegan raspberry sorbet on the menu but didn’t try, we felt like we’d been brave enough for one day!

(The menu also featured a gluten-free base which may be worth investigating if you’re gluten-free, although how that works with all the flour about I’m not quite sure? On the menu i didn’t see any peanuts but there were walnuts in a salad, almonds and hazelnuts in the puddings, as well as pesto on some pizzas.)

Savoury Herby Soda Bread

It seems to me that savoury bakes and snacks can be harder to make and source if you avoid things like eggs, milk, sesame and nuts. Maybe that’s because I’ve become more and more adept at creating interesting sweet dishes, and there’s so much variety when you take into account cakes, biscuits, breads, chocolates and sweets. Or maybe, you miss those ingredients even more in savoury items – there is certainly a reliance on cheese, nuts and seeds when you look at savoury offerings.

For savoury items, there always seems to be a point where you want more than crisps or plain crackers (of only certain varieties mind), but you want something interesting and appetising. This might be a quick snack or an exciting addition to a soup or salad for lunch, and if it can be made in a flash then that’s always a bonus.

Thinking of quick, soda bread came to mind. Bread can be the highlight of a meal or a wonderful snack to graze on whilst waiting for the main event.

This version uses curdled soya milk to replace the buttercream which gives superbly authentic results, plus a super savoury ‘cheese’ and chive vibe to fit with my craving for more savoury bakes in our repertoire. If you’ve ever made my equally delicious savoury scones you’ll be familiar with the flavour profile. 

If you like other herbs then just sub them in; rosemary and thyme would be rather nice, as would the softer parsley or chervil. The beauty of this bread is that it really is quick – you can have it made, baked and ready in about 40 minutes – perfect for those times when you find the bread bin empty!

We ate this loaf, fresh from the oven with a spicy lentil and coconut soup (a delicious Ottolenghi recipe) and then warmed up the next day as a tasty addition to a picky bits lunch. Do you have those, or is it just us when we’re trying a use up the contents of the fridge but still have an interesting lunch!

Savoury ‘Cheese’ and Chive Soda Bread

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

 makes 1 loaf

210g soya milk

15g vinegar (white wine or cider)

1 tsp marmite

300g plain flour

20g oats (plus a few more to scatter on top)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp chives

1 tsp dried oregano

30g dairy-free butter/margarine, cubed

40g dairy-free cheese, cubed (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. Pour the milk into a jug, add the vinegar and marmite and leave to ‘sour’
  3. Place all the other ingredients except the butter and cheese into a bowl or stand mixer.
  4. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips, or using the paddle attachment.
  5. Stir the soured milk and pour into the dry mix. Bring together to a very soft dough. Stir in the cheese cubes, if using.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead to form a smooth ball, you’ll probably need a fair amount of flour
  7. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and sprinkle over a few more oats. Cut a deep cross in the top (this will help let the carbon dioxide created by the bicarb and cream of tartar escape in a controlled fashion). Let sit for 20 minutes, uncovered on the worktop
  8. Place in the prewarmed oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170 degrees Centigrade and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and crusty. (30 minutes baking time in total)
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

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.