An ode to ginger & molasses cake — The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Violet cakes cookbook It's fair to say that I'm giddy with excitement to have a copy of The Violet Bakery Cookbook in my hot little hands. Only released a couple of days ago, I have been waiting/hoping for this book since I first tasted Ptak's ginger and molasses cake back in about 2007 after buying some from her then-new Broadway Market stall. For nearly four years now, I've lived a mere hop, skip and a jump from the Violet cafe on Hackney's well-hip Wilton Way. I don't frequent the bijou bakery as much as I could (waistline woes) but sometimes, when the sweet tooth takes hold, we pop in for cakes as an afternoon tea treat. Salted caramel icing, deeply dark chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake, sticky buns and more fill the old glass shop case. I can never decide. Served up on utility vintage crockery, accompanied with lashings of tea or a strong coffee, it's a lovely spot to while away an hour.

Violet cakes

Wilton Way blossom

The ginger and molasses cake for me, that is the stuff dreams are made of. I love baking and whipping up cakes, so over the last few years I have tried to recreate the ginger and molasses cake several times. While they've always turned out damn tasty, I've never quite nailed it. So it is now I can say thank you, thank you Claire, from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful book that will allow me to recreate your incredible cakes in my own tiny kitchen. I know exactly what I'm doing this Sunday.

Violet cakes cookbook 3

This beautiful book has dozens of yummy recipes I'm looking forward to trying out, all beautifully photographed by Kristin Perers, an East London photographer, whose gorgeous Instagram feed I've been double-tapping for while.

The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak is out now.

x

p.s. You can see the another piece I wrote about Violet Cakes over on This is Your Kingdom.

p.p.s More cake musing here.

N.B. This post isn't sponsored, I bought this book myself. I just really, really like baking cakes.

A frosty London Fields

We haven't had any proper snow, i.e. more than a light dusting, in London for a couple of years now. I miss it. Instagram is killing me at the moment. Between the glorious days of sunshine my friends are enjoying in New Zealand and Australia, to the heavy blizzards and snow in New York, it's envy-making.. I can't really complain though. We've had plenty of beautiful frosty mornings lately, where Jack Frost has danced his way through town making everything glisten magically.

A frosty winter London fields morning

And finally, a light sprinkling of icing sugary snow.

Snowy London Fields

"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” 

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

I wish I could go to sleep like the seeds some days and wake again in the warmer days of spring.

An ode to Columbia Road

A piece of my heart belongs to Columbia Road. Hyacinths at Columbia Road flower market

I’m not sure why I’ve never written a proper post on the East London street made famous by it's old flower market. Sure, I’ve mentioned it in passing but I've never gotten around to a whole post dedicated to what is undoubtedly one of my favourite places in London.  I lived just off Columbia Road for two and a half years and absolutely adored it. A busy, bustling house filled with beautiful and hilarious housemates. Where we always had flowers, the biggest tree we could find at Christmas, and a glass of wine was never far away. Where too many mid-week drinks at the Royal Oak was a frequent occurrence and too much karaoke at the weekend would keep us awake. The 'Columbia Road girls' who appeared on a cooking show (the less said about that the better)...

The Royal Oak Columbia Road

My love affair with Columbia Road started on my first weekend in London. My old friend Emma said to me, "I think you’ll really like it" as we walked down Bethnal Green Road. I couldn’t believe such a glorious place existed. As a girl who grew up with a big rose-filled garden in New Zealand and home was always filled with flowers, it was a dream come true to find a flower market in the East End. I grew up learning all the names of the flowers and plants in the garden with my very green-thumbed grandparents. I even won the Flower Show Cup at primary school. (Yes, we had such a thing. It was the highlight of sports’ day – which I did my best to get out of.) It's fair to say, like my sister, I have inherited the gene for all things green and flowery. I was lucky enough, after a couple of years in different London flats, to find my dream (well, almost) house share just off Columbia Road.

Seasons at Columbia Road

A few happy years later, I now only live a 15-minute walk away and if Sunday is looking quiet, a stroll to Columbia Road is always top of my to-do list. Now we have a little garden I buy as many plants as I can carry back home, usually a bouquet or two and a coffee. The ever-changing seasons are so visible at the markets. Spring = bulbs galore and cherry blossom. Summer brings roses, glorious dahlias and perfect peonies. Autumn = orange blooms for Halloween, and winter brings Christmas trees, bunches of cotton and vibrant red berries.

Columbia Road vintage plates

 

An ode to Columbia Road

I will always love rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning for a coffee, a bunch of flowers and a stroll around the vintage stalls and shops before the heaving crowds descend. The wonderful little shops where I will always find the perfect present. The hilarious long-time stall holders. The cakes at Lily Vanilli. The teacups at Vintage Heaven. The gorgeous mosaics outside the school. If I'm feeling glum, the Mr always knows a trip to Columbia Road will make it better.

Columbia Road School Mosiac

It pays to get there super early to avoid the crowds or, if you'd like a bargain bunch of blooms go about 2pm in winter or 3pm in spring/summer when the stallholders are selling everything they have left cheap. For a look around the shops, get there early, or better yet, go on a Saturday when most of the shops are open and there are no crowds.  The late night evenings in the lead up to Christmas are equally crowd but loads of fun with chestnuts being roasted, carol singers and mulled wine for sale. Perfect for gift shopping. It's so pretty all lit up at night! And if it snows...magical.

Late night at London's Columbia Road

Columbia Road, you hold a very special place in my heart.

Columbia Road Flower Market is on every Sunday, rain or shine, 8am til 3'ish. You can find out more about Columbia Road and how to get there over here.

Photos by Luke and me

Lately I've been...

Spring flowers co-ordinating my outfit with the fallen blossom petals... loving the Welsh Poppies, Nasturtiums and other blooms in my garden. Foxgloves, I love you...

Eating & baking baking spring birthday cakes and decorating them with nasturtiums and violets from the garden...

trying not to eat all the sourdough bread the Mr has been baking...

cooking up a nut roast pie and baking peach tarts for a friend over for dinner...

Sweet violets

picking teeny-tiny violets from the garden...

Ruby grapefruit & berries

trying to make up for all the cake by eating raspberries and grapefruit...

Lately

trying not to steal the neighbours cat...

then eating more cake...

enjoying the spring sunshine...

and spring storms...

Treasures

tidying up my inherited, vintage and new treasures...

As you can see lately has been all about being at home, baking cakes and hanging out in the garden.

All photos from my instagram @theteapotexplodes xx C

Living in a snow globe

This snowglobe print by Clare Owen pretty much sums up the last few days in London. It really is a bit like being shaken up in a snow globe when you're trekking around trying not end up on your bum in a pile of ice or sludge. But I can't complain. London all white is the stuff of dreams and film sets. Just lovely. The print is 50% off in the Papermash sale at the moment along with lots of other lovely stuff.

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Image: Papermash.

x C

Peony season

Don't you love Peony season? One thing that this dreadful weather can't take away from Summer for us. Image

I picked up this glorious bunch at Columbia Road flower market on Sunday for just £10. They are looking rather splendid in this lovely jug my sister found in charity shop on her last visit to London. (It was too big and heavy to fit in the suitcase to go back to New Zealand.)

It's all been a bit quiet on the blog lately. I have so much to blog about, but barely any time to write it. Let's just say my approach to blogging is sporadic at best.

I hope to be spending more time listening to records and writing in this peaceful corner soon.

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x Charlotte

Blossom

Spring in London is so beautiful. It always reminds me why I'm still living here when I've just about had enough of the seemingly endless months of depressing grey winter. Along comes Spring and the trees burst into blossom and yellow daffodils carpet the parks. Here are a few photos I snapped on my walk to work recently.

Wilton Way Blossom outside Violet Cakes.

Blossom snow.

There is a massive pink cherry tree that is putting on a spectacular display around the corner from my home that I haven't managed to snap yet as I never seem to have my camera when I go past. Hopefully, I'll manage to capture it before it has all fallen.