Autumn vibes

Another Autumn-y recipe today, in the form of a spiced apple cake which to me optimises everything lovely about the changing seasons from Summer to Autumn. It’s rich, warming but not too heavy and filling – maybe later into the cool seasons you could add raisins and brandy to spice things up a bit. But for now, this is a great cake to welcome those Autumn vibes and use up some apples falling from the trees. A friend suggested using pears, which I think is a great idea!


The recipe comes from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8, which is a great book (as you might expect from the River Cottage crew), full of homely Autumn recipes from flapjacks to jammy dodgers, florentines to Bonfire night parkin, toffee apple cake to Somerset cider cake, and even biscuits for dogs! I’ve made this apple cake several times, and it never fails to impress. Delicious straight from the oven with a coffee in the afternoon, it perfectly sums up Autumn to me.

The other great thing about this cake (besides being delicious) is that it’s very quick to make, if you don’t peel your apples. I tend not to, but the book advises that if your apples are older or waxy-skinned they are best peeled. I like to bake this cake in a round bundt tin, echoing the holes in the middle of the apple slices on top. The recipe uses nutmeg and cloves, but I usually switch these out for cinnamon and ginger, because I prefer them. Experiment with whichever warming spices you like! And enjoy: Autumn has arrived.

Apple cake
from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8


For the cake:
125g self-raising white flour
125g self-raising wholemeal flour (I usually just use what I have to hand)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp ginger, or whichever spices you prefer
125g butter, cut into small pieces
125g soft brown sugar
350g cored apple (prepared weight)
1 egg, beaten
50ml milk

For the topping:
1 small eating apple (ideally red-skinned, cored but not peeled)
1 tbsp caster sugar

– Preheat the oven to 180℃/gas mark 4 and grease and line a loose-bottomed round or bundt cake tin. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl and mix well together. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles medium breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.


– Cut the apples into 1cm dice and toss lightly in the rubbed-in mixture until evenly distributed. Add the egg and milk and bring the mix together with a wooden spoon to a sticky, lumpy dough. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level with the back of the spoon.


– For the topping, cut the apple across into 7 or 8 slices and poke out any residual pips. Lay the slices on top of the cake. Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the mixture and apples – this will give the cake a lovely crisp topping when baked.

– Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown, firm and crispy to the touch. Leave in the tin for 20-30 minutes before turning out. The cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight tin in a cool place.


A bit of news…


Very excited to share the news that Jim and I are expecting a baby! Mini Ashworth is due in March 2015 and we’ve already begun planning, organising and (for me) knitting. I’m excited about growing big during the cooler months and will be sharing some outfit posts in this space. Life is about to change a whole lot and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventure here on this little blog!

Anna Bond for Puffin in Bloom

My obsession with flowers is well documented on this ol’ blog, so it’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Anna Bond, founder of hugely popular Rifle Paper Co. Her beautiful paintings can be found adorning everything from calendars to greetings card, notebooks to phone cases, and even wallpaper! Anna’s instagram feed is a delight, full of dreamy snaps of her daily life and floral paintings.

But something particularly lovely recently caught my eye – Anna’s designs for covers of four classic children’s books, which are being re-issued by Puffin over the next few months as part of their ‘In Bloom’ collection. Aren’t they just stunning!? I love the colour palettes, the hints of gold and the little O-mouthed characters. Working in a library, I’m still a big fan of reading a story in a book rather than on a digital screen, so these have gone straight onto my wishlist for Christmas. I sincerely hope Anna has more treats like this up her sleeve!

If you haven’t visited the Rifle Paper Co. website before, I’d highly recommend popping over there for a browse (I have my eye on a floral 2015 calendar). But maybe leave your credit card in the other room…


Lately: a trip to Nadinoo

A few weeks ago, over my birthday weekend, Jim and I went to Manchester for the day for some shopping, browsing and afternoon tea. I always love visiting my old home, seeing what’s changed and what’s new. Anyway, this time I had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Manchester, and specifically, Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Tucked away in the heart of the Northern Quarter, the centre houses 30 artists and makers across two floors, all selling their handmade wares. There’s a huge variety of goods for sale, from jewellery to baby clothes to prints to paintings to toys, as well as a friendly café downstairs.

Back in April a new resident moved in to the design centre, with a studio I was very eager to visit. I’ve been a fan of Nadia Izruna for years, since she launched her beautiful handmade clothing label Nadinoo in 2009. Nadia has a real knack for design, and for choosing beautiful fabrics to compliment her collections of dresses, blouses and two-piece sets. In fact, Nadia was the person who introduced me to Liberty fabrics, in particular the Claire Aude fabric which later became the inspiration for the colour scheme for our wedding!

So when I found out that Nadia had opened a studio, I knew I had to see her beautiful pieces in person – and perhaps buy myself a birthday gift, of course! Meeting Nadia was a real treat after following her adventures for so long online. She was welcoming and friendly, and we had a lovely chat. I rummaged through the rails, tried dresses on and grinned with delight at Nadia’s pint-sized children’s collection. And I did treat myself to a birthday present; a custom-made Nadinoo dress, which arrived last week and is perfect for Autumn adventures. I’ll save that for another blog post…in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my photos of Nadia’s lovely workspace.

Unfortunately, Nadinoo’s studio doors will be closing for the last time on 15th September – so if you’re in the Manchester area, hot-foot it over there! I have no doubt that Nadia has many more exciting projects up her sleeve, including a children’s collection for Spring/Summer 2015, which I had the pleasure of viewing and which is THE CUTEST. In the meantime, you can follow Nadia’s adventures on her blog and shop her lovely clothes online. Stay tuned, more great things are coming from the Nadinoo camp.