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.

Boozy spelt Christmas cake and Chickpea magazine

Vegan Spelt Christmas cake See ya 2014! You've been a good-un. I'm in bed with a rotten cold and am trying cheer myself up with this stack of brilliant inspiration from friends and family, near and far. My bedside reading today includes the gorgeous and brilliant vegan quarterly magazine, Chickpea. And it features a recipe for boozy spelt Christmas cake - written by me! (Hooray). Soon I'm going to drag my sorry self from my sickbed and whip up some coconut oil frosting for said cake which is now nicely boozy with brandy. It's become a bit of a tradition to cut my Christmas cake on New Year's Eve over the last couple of years, and while I'm not a fan of traditional Christmas cakes, I do like making my own version. We're planning on staying in this evening and cracking open the bubbles - should mix well with the cold and flu tablets. It's the first time in a very long time that I haven't gone out partying on New Year's Eve and I'm looking forward to it. Fingers crossed I can keep my eyes open 'til midnight. Wishing you all a wonderful 2015. x Photo for Chickpea magazine by Arthur Ravenscrag

Sunday bake off: When I made a vegan wedding cake...

I will never understand people who say they don't really like cake. I mean, really? What is not to like about gooey, sticky, double-chocolate fudge cake? Or light-as-air sponge cake dripping with passion fruit icing, layered with jam and cream?

But then again, maybe it's just me. Cake. I love cake. I think I like baking cakes even more than I like eating them. Now that the other half and I live on our own I have more space to bake. Away from the busy kitchen of my previous flat, filled with gin-drinking and wine-drinking, chatting, fabulous girls. Cakes are being baked far more frequently. I have space for several types of flour. And sugars. My Kitchenaid mixer is not packed away in its box and now has a permanent spot on the bench. Baking is good for the soul (if not so good for the hips).

It's not even the taste that does it for me (don't get me wrong I'll always have at least one slice) - it's the visual feast of cakes that I enjoy the most. Icing, berries, cream, little people toppers, mini bunting and then flowers on top. And cake plates and cake stands (which I don't love as much as my sister but I still have more than I need). Then there's cake forks and cake tins... I won't go on. You see, I just really like cakes.

My old friends Louise and Dan got hitched at the end of last year in a lovely low key ceremony at Islington Town Hall. Guess who had volunteered to bake the wedding cake? Yip, me. (I took care of hair flowers and button holes too but that's for another day).

I didn't want a structured, iced to strict perfection wedding cakes like these. No, I like cakes to look baked, and although it sounds cheesey, that they have been baked with love. Not carved from polystyrene.

It was a very busy week and I hadn't had enough time for a trial run. To make matters more complicated, several of the guests (and my best buddies) are vegan. So no cream, eggs or butter could be included. I've made quite a few vegan cakes before, but I wanted something special. Then I was told about this recipe for Raspberry Blackout cake. I adapted it slightly and baked it in two different circular cake tins so I could create tiers. The final touch was just lashings of vanilla icing and fresh raspberries.

That's me above putting on the finishing touches at their house after transporting it in pieces by taxi. Topped off with baby bunting I made earlier. And I'm pretty pleased to say not even crumb was left the next day.

Image 1: Sweet Dee Design on Etsy Image 2 & 4 by Luke Image 3, iPhone pic by me.

Afternoon tea at Liberty.

After a quick visit to Columbia Road flower markets to get some big blousy pink roses there seemed nothing better to do on a rainy, dreary Sunday afternoon than visit Liberty for afternoon tea.

I am a big fan of Burleigh's black and white willow pattern. I quite fancy the whole dinner set for everyday use. My old china is just too fragile.

The coffee cake was delicious, although I can still feel the clotted cream clogging my arteries.

Cake - one of your five a day

I have a thing for cake recipes that contain vegetables.  My favourite cake recipe for the last couple of years has been a beetroot chocolate cake. It's completely decadent and mouth wateringly good. I've made it for many birthdays and even dinner parties. Beetroot and chocolate - yum.

Recently the beetroot cake has been surpassed by the Pistachio Chocolate Cake from Harry Eastwood's book 'Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache'.  It is probably one of the best cake recipes I've used and has been a success each time I've made it.  It has ground up pistachios and grated courgettes in it, which give it an amazing texture.

It doesn't rise much, probably because it's made with rice flour, but once filled with 'Naughty Chocolate icing' you don't even notice.

I'm not sure that you could count the courgette in this cake as one of your five a day but it's definitely worth the effort. So far this is the only cake I've attempted from the book as I just can't imagine any of the others being better.  Perhaps I should give the Red Velvet cake a try next.... it is made with beetroot after all.