Things have been quiet around here lately, but very busy in real life! In my spare time, I tend to ping-pong between knitting projects, baking projects and sewing projects. Exciting plans are currently afoot in the baking world. Plans which have been laid, hatched, and gotten extremely excited over.

First off, I am very excited to announce that I will be blogging monthly over at Manchester Cake Club! I hope to write about some tricky baking, and will be attempting some challenging recipes. Time to get that sugar thermometer out… My first blog post is right here, and looks at the perfect end-of-Summer cake: the genoese sponge. So please enjoy!

Another exciting development is the establishment of Birch Bakes: my first baking enterprise. As I do a lot of home baking for friends and family, and have been asked to make my friend’s wedding cake next year, I decided that I’d like to bake more often and for more people, so went ahead and ordered some business cards.

I’m not intending to make this my full-time job, or make lots of money; I just love baking, and would like to offer my services to the masses. It’s still a very new idea, and Birch Bakes doesn’t even have a website yet! In the meantime you can keep up to date with my baking endeavours over on flickr. Jim has been helping me to devise ideas to set Birch Bakes apart from other bakers, and there has been talk aplenty of cake stands, more icing sugar decoration and even personalised cakes and cake toppers. So watch this space…

The first official Birch Bakes venture came via the very kind offer of Laura, owner of the delightful Laura’s Attic. Throughout September 2012 she is taking part in Helfa Gelf, North Wales’ biggest open studio event. Over 100 artists are taking part, from potters to painters to jewellery-makers to photographers, and will be opening their studio doors to visitors during the September weekends. I visited Laura recently and took some photos of her studio with my trusty film camera. Here’s a peek…

Laura asked me to collaborate with her and provide free cake to her visitors, and in return she would encourage them to take a Birch Bakes business card. We had a Very Important Business Meeting, which involved drinking tea, deciding on baked goods and getting very giddy over cake toppers.

Laura’s first open weekend offered lemon drizzle cake…

This weekend it’s coffee muffins…

And next weekend is tiffin! So if you are in the North Wales area, do pop in and visit Laura, my incredibly talented painter friend Jonny and the other participating artists. What a brilliant excuse to meet some of the finest artists North Wales has to offer! And, of course, have a nosey around some really interesting studios. And really, isn’t that the best bit?


I have been known to go on about this book on occasion, but it is such a beauty that, what the heck, I’m going to do it again. A few weeks ago my lovely friend Laura invited me and Suz over for tea. Having spotted Leon’s Strawberry and Blueberry Cobbler in Leon’s Baking and Puddings, I offered to make dessert. The cobbler turned out to be the perfect late-summer recipe: quick and easy, using up seasonal fruit and creating the smallest amount of cooking-induced stress possible. Hooray! My favourite part was probably pouring the CREAM into the cobbler mixture (yes, I said cream); it felt very naughty and definitely evens out the smug goodness of the fruit.

And it really was! The fruit oozed together upon cooking to make a big, jammy hotpot. The scone-like cobblers on top turned golden-brown and crumbly, and soaked up all the fruity juices. The recipe in the Leon book uses gluten-free flour and baking powder, however I’m including the version I made, with regular flour and baking powder. Our cobbler was served with generous helpings of double cream, red wine and conversation. We all went back for seconds, and I’m pretty sure Laura had it for breakfast the next day, too. Well, why on earth wouldn’t you?

Strawberry and Blueberry Cobbler
from the Leon Baking and Puddings Book

250g blueberries
500g strawberries, hulled and quartered
50g caster sugar
4 tablespoons cornflour
200g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
a large pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
150ml double cream, plus extra for topping

– Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Combine the berries, sugar and cornflour and put into a deep 1-1.5 litre baking dish.

– Put the flour, baking powder, salt and butter into a bowl and use the back of a fork to break up the cubes of butter into tiny pieces. Pour over the cream (YES!) and mix until it all comes together.

– Press the topping into a ball and place onto a floured work surface. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, then roll out to a 2cm thickness and cut out circles with a biscuit cutter.

– Lay the circles flat on top of the fruit and brush with the extra cream. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.