Steps to baking bliss
What I love about baking is the feeling of achievement, but also the happiness it brings not just to me, but others who get to enjoy the outcome! For me it's not always about baking for a celebration, sometimes just because it makes me feel good, and that's what baking should always be about – enjoyment! I've gained my love of baking over many years watching (always on a Saturday morning) my Nan and Mum whip up amazing baked goodies; some of my favorites of theirs were shortcakes, cheese straws and mini bakewell tarts.
They've been my main inspiration behind baking, wanting to create wonderful and tasty treats for all to enjoy and feel comforted by. As you'll know, there's no better aroma to come from your kitchen than bread or cake baking in the oven. Along with inspiration from family members, I find all kinds of top tips from magazines recipe cards (I have a large collection from Waitrose) and browsing online.
I love to try out new ideas, even if they may seem a little tricky. The secret to baking is - well really there is no secret, apart from making sure you have the right equipment. Enter your kitchen full of excitement and determination, follow the recipe and you will produce great things! If I don't always get it right first time, I can always learn what needs adjusting for next time - I like the scientific nature of baking.
A good set of digital scales will always ensure you have the correct measure. I love these Salter electric scales. In order to make one of my specialties – Lemon Drizzle cake - I rely on a few essential pieces of kitchen equipment. I would never be without my trusty electric hand mixer; mine's a Kenwood given to me by my mum when I left home. We stock a large range, so for a similar version I'd try this Kenwood HM324. As a compact gadget these are great if you have limited storage space, but I have always wanted to be, and hopefully will be one day, the proud owner of a KitchenAid. First launched in 1937 they're a kitchen legend, and now available in gorgeous colours and finishes.
For Lemon Drizzle cake you'll need the following:
100g/4oz butter, softened (although I do like to use good old-fashioned Stork which works very well in cakes)
175g/6oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1759/6oz golden caster sugar (white caster sugar will work fine too)
2 large eggs
6 tbsp of milk
Finley grated rind of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1 large lemon (enough to just cover cake, use more if required) 3oz golden or plain caster sugar (prepare in a small bowl when cake is baking)
Weigh out all listed cake ingredients and place altogether in a large mixing bowl. I like this cute and practical set of John Lewis Sari measuring spoons and cups. When grating the lemon rind, I find a Lemon Zester like this one from Microplane is the quickest and least messy to use.
Whisk cake ingredients until well incorporated; the mixture should fall nicely off a metal spoon, if not just add a touch more milk. Once ready, pour mixture into a greased and greaseproof paper-lined dish , roughly 20x30cm in size and bake in a pre-heated oven fan 160º/Gas 4, for 30-40mins or until the top of cake is nicely golden. You can test the cake by using a skewer If this comes out clean, remove the cake from oven and drizzle over the lemon juice and sugar mixture.
Leave the cake to cool completely before serving. This is a fabulous recipe idea to use for a gift - for Mother's day for example. Simply cut the cake into 2" squares, decorate with rose or violet petals, place inside a lined decorative cake tin, like this Provence Rose set from Cath Kidston.
If you're planning to entertain your mum this coming Mother's day, check out our new PiP studio range of china for a really cheery table, with pieces of your cake piled up as a centrepiece on this pretty glass cake stand and cake forks at the ready; this set by Robert Welch is perfect.
But if all that stirring and watching the oven sounds a bit too much like hard work, cheat using the John Lewis Breadmaker, which also makes cakes and jam. It does all the mixing and times the cooking for you!