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The big cake

August 27, 2015

map bunting paper boat wedding cake

map bunting paper boat wedding cake

map bunting paper boat wedding cake

As we head off on our honeymoon soon I thought I should get the wedding recaps rounded off, mainly so I can spam you with lots of photos of sun, sea and ice cream once we get back!  I should admit that when we first got engaged I announced that I would not be making the cake, as wedding cakes are always stressful and I would have quite enough to worry about in the days before the wedding, thank you very much.  But as time wore on I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend hundreds of pounds on something I knew I could do for a fraction of the cost.  So I came up with a plan to make the process as stress-free as possible: cakes made and frozen in advance, plain white fondant, paper decorations, and no stacking.  The heatwave in the week before the wedding did make it a bit tricky to manage the buttercream and fondant, but no amount of planning could have changed that!  The wooden toppers reading ‘Oh Happy Day!’ and ‘Hooray!’ were a Christmas gift from a friend, and the paper boats were a last minute addition to both the cake and the table decor.

After much humming and hawing I settled on the cake flavours: my best madeira cake with fresh raspberry filling, a chocolate madeira with chocolate buttercream, and a rather exciting gin and tonic tier.  Using this recipe as a starting point – the flavour was great but the texture was all wrong – I played around with various combinations until I was happy.  In the end I made another madeira flavoured with gin, lime and juniper berries, and topped it off with gin buttercream.

Gin and Tonic Madeira (makes a 6-inch round cake; this page is handy for adjusting quantities if you want to make a different size or shape)

1. Cream 175g unsalted butter and 175g caster sugar until light and fluffy.  In separate bowls, lightly beat 2 large eggs and sift 250g self-raising flour.

2.  Mix half of the beaten eggs into the creamed mixture, followed by a third of the flour.  Repeat once, then add 2 tbsp gin, zest of 3 limes, juice of 2 limes and 40 ground juniper berries before mixing in the last of the flour.

3.  Prepare your cake tin by greasing and lining inside with baking paper, and wrapping the outside with several layers of newspaper.  This stops the edges of the cake from cooking too quickly.  Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 160 c/325 f for 40 minutes until cooked through.

5 miles, 5 days

August 1, 2015

5 miles, 5 days

I’m interrupting the wedding-focused programming to tell you about this week’s big challenge, just in case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t follow me on instagram!).  We have run 5 miles a day for 5 days to raise money for LoveOliver, a charity close to my heart as it was set up in memory of my best friend (and bridesmaid)’s first baby boy, who was born with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and passed away just 24 weeks old.  This July Oliver would have been turning 5, so we have been asking people to High-5 LoveOliver, which funds research into childhood cancer and supports families affected by it.

Having been a bit caught up with the wedding planning, all of a sudden it was July and we hadn’t worked out how we were going to High-5!  In a moment of madness I decided that a running challenge was the way to go (in spite of having a long standing hatred of running, and never having run more than 5k in one go).  I discovered that it was a 5 mile round trip from our house, across the Forth Road Bridge and back and convinced him that he wanted to join me in running this every day for 5 days.  In my initial enthusiasm I set up our fundraising page, and then there was no turning back!

I’ve got to be honest, this week has been tough, and the weather hasn’t been kind to us either.  Monday was the first time either of us had run the full distance, and we both struggled with our stamina.  On Tuesday we found our stride, but our leg muscles were complaining – and it rained the whole time.  Wednesday was the worst, as every step was agony due to our poor overworked muscles.  Thursday I came down with a head cold and was sent home from work in the afternoon, only to nap for a couple of hours and then head out to the bridge.  The fresh air cleared my head a little but I was so fatigued it was a hard slog.  On Friday, our final day, I wasn’t sure I could do it at all having been in bed all day with this cold, but we were determined to complete the challenge so got out there and focused on Oliver.

Which brings me to the main point, really.  Only Oliver could motivate me to push myself to get through this week.  He brought us so much joy and so much sorrow, and the only way I know to deal with that sorrow is to try to stop this happening to other children, other families, other communities.  Please, support us if you can – just click here.

The big day

July 16, 2015

Mr and Mrs polaroid

We did it!  We got married!  It’s hard to know what to say about the day.  After twelve months and two weeks of planning we woke up on a grey and slightly chilly Saturday and became husband and wife.  The day was all sorts of wonderful as well as emotional, overwhelming, joyful, exhausting and surprisingly stressful at times (mainly when things weren’t running according to the pretty detailed plan I’d put together!).  I’m known for my perfectionist nature (that’s putting it kindly – ‘control freak’ is used more often) but I’ve learned that something doesn’t have to be perfect to be absolutely wonderful.  Least stressful day of my life?  Definitely not.  Most joyful day of my life?  No contest.

It seems a bit much to share all 2386 photos from our wonderful photographer Eric-Rene Penoy so here is a just a brief summary of what went on.  While we’re talking about him, I can’t recommend our photographer enough.  Not only has he captured the day perfectly, but he was a much needed calming presence at times, and also very useful when it came to doing up the many teeny tiny buttons on my dress!

Getting ready


In the week running up to the wedding the whole thing felt very surreal.  We were pretty organised with just last minute bits and bobs to do, the cake to decorate, and lots of fun to be had with our good friend Christine who came all the way from Texas!  On the morning of the wedding day I still felt a bit spaced out, until my hair and makeup were done and my veil was on, and all of a sudden it all felt very real.  He got ready at home with his best men whereas I was at the hotel with my family, so the first time we saw each other was when I arrived at the pier with my parents.  He looked just as nervous as he did when he proposed last year!

at the pier

On the boat

It was lovely to have a moment with each other before getting on the boat to cheers and claps from our friends and family.  I had been quite teary all morning so of course this outpouring of love brought on some more tears.  We then set sail for Inchcolm, a small island in the Firth of Forth which has been home to a religious community since the 12th century, although the abbey is now owned by Historic Scotland.  It is one of the first places we visited together and we’ve always known we would get married there.  We had half an hour on the boat, which was beautifully decorated thanks to metres and metres of bunting borrowed from an internet friend.  Hurrah for twitter!  We hadn’t thought much about the journey in advance but it was so good to have time to talk with everyone and share our excitement on the way to the ceremony.  It also helped to settle the nerves (and the tears) before we arrived at the island.




Then we did the deed!  We were married by a friend who happens to be a Church of Scotland minister – we were his first wedding, in fact – which was lovely as the ceremony was so personal.  My dad read a poem, another friend sang, my sisters cried, my two-year-old nephew howled, we fasted our hands and made the vows we had written together, we exchanged rings, we kissed, our minister gave a Harry Potter themed address including producing a wand from his kilt sock, and my sister and brother-in-law sang a beautiful version of 500 Miles (yes, by the Proclaimers) which ended with everyone singing along!


After the ceremony we headed outside for some photographs and ended up forming an impromptu receiving line, resulting in lots of hugs and smiles as we were congratulated over and over.  This was completely unplanned but I’m so glad it happened.

group photos

couple photos

By this time the wind had got up and it was threatening to rain, so we rushed through the group shots in a fairly chaotic manner.  Handily my niece’s waterproof jacket coordinates quite nicely with the dresses!  Once we’d had enough of the group shots we spent some time around the abbey while everyone else returned to the boat to warm up.  By the time we joined them all the popcorn and Tunnock’s teacakes had sadly disappeared!

On the boat

At the hotel


Back at the hotel I was relieved to see that the 3 foot helium balloon letters I’d wasted so much time worrying about were the perfect size for the space, and everything looked amazing.  We had Pimm’s and prosecco before settling down to a magnificent afternoon tea.  We sat at our own sweetheart table and it was lovely to have some time to chat to each other, as well as some very special moments when people made use of the two extra chairs at our table.  Once we’d all had our fill we had short speeches from him and me, then my sister and his brother.  The boys provided plenty of laughs, and of course I couldn’t get through mine without crying.

bouncy castle



With the speeches out the way it was time for some fun!  We had hoped to set up a kind of funfair in the hotel gardens but we moved most of the stalls inside because of the weather.  We still managed a bounce on the bouncy castle though, and the games were very much enjoyed inside.  It turns out hurling beanbags at coconuts and tin cans gets people laughing!


Once we’d all worked up our appetites we served a barbecue buffet, with burgers, sausages, kebabs and salads.  We were both too excited and emotional to eat much on the day but handily we had stuffed ourselves at our menu tasting earlier in the year so we knew it was a good spread!  We then cut the cake (of which more later, this is supposed to be a baking blog after all) before fairly awkwardly shuffling around to our first dance.  The photos are gorgeous though!



The band played a mixture of covers and ceilidh dances and by the end of the night the dance floor was packed.  I have very happy memories of jumping around to Uptown Funk and 500 Miles (again!) surrounded by the people I love, which will never fail to make me smile.

End of the night

And then it was over!  I’ve heard so many people say that the day disappears in a flash, but I didn’t feel that way at all.  It seemed to last forever (in a good way) and I love that we had plenty of time to enjoy being with our guests throughout the day.  After all, we did start at 11am and didn’t head to bed until midnight, but that’s just what happens when your ceremony time is dependent on the tide!

I think I’ll do just another couple of wedding posts – one on the cake, and another on the DIY details that have kept us so busy over the last few months – if you’re interested?  Or is there anything else you are dying to know?  I think I’ve now read so many wedding blogs that I’ve lost sight of what’s useful and interesting!

Top photo from my instagram, all other photos by Eric-Rene Penoy

Cake and castles

May 4, 2015

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle and Sweetheart Abbey

hot tub birthday cake

hot tub birthday cake

Ingleton Barn Cottage

Linlithgow Palace

Bothwell Castle

It was his birthday in February and we had a weekend of cake and castles, and a cottage with a hot tub (hence the cake!).  The cloudy skies made both photography and stargazing a challenge, but the cosy cottage was perfect for snuggling up and playing Scrabble, and we did at least see some sunshine on our way home.

We were given Historic Scotland membership for Christmas so we put it to good use, stopping at Linlithgow Palace and Bothwell Castle along the way as well as a bumper day in the drizzle on Saturday with visits to Caerlaverock Castle, Sweetheart Abbey and New Abbey Corn Mill!  Caerlaverock is certainly impressive, with a full moat surrounding a fascinating mixture of architecture thanks to additions and upgrades over the years.  There was a wedding taking place while we were visiting which was especially exciting as we’re getting married in a Historic Scotland property in June!

Closer to home, Linlithgow Palace is well worth a visit, with lots of towers to climb and cellars to explore.  There is so much of the palace left you can really imagine how it operated in its heyday when Mary Queen of Scots was growing up there.  Linlithgow itself is a pretty little town and I would recommend exploring the shops and cafes while you’re in the area, as well as the gentle 2 mile walk around the loch overlooked by the palace.

Mother’s Day menu

April 3, 2015


salmon and spinach lasagne

chocolate orange stripe cake

On Mothering Sunday we had family round for dinner, and after toying with various roast dinner ideas I decided to go Italian, serving bruschetta, lasagne and a chocolate cake for dessert.  I do love a good dinner party, as long as I can prepare ahead to avoid any last minute stress!  The bruschetta was a simple combination of toasted ciabatta, tomatoes, olive oil, prosciutto, mozarella and a fairly improvised rocket pesto type thing.  The chocolate cake was more exciting than it sounds, as I used Lorraine Pascale’s ‘crouching tiger, hidden zebra’ recipe so when cut it revealed chocolate and orange stripes.  But the real piece de resistance (or whatever the Italian equivalent is) was the smoked salmon and spinach lasagne we had for the main course.  This lasagne with a difference always goes down well, and is one of my all time favourite things to make (and eat!).

Smoked salmon lasagne (based on Tom Kitchin’s recipe)

1. I like to prepare the fillings first.  Melt a knob of butter in a large pan and gently saute 2 sliced leeks for 2-3 minutes.  Add 400g spinach, a handful at a time, and cook until wilted.

2. Cook 200g salmon (approx 2 fillets) however you like: poached, steamed, roasted or even microwaved in a covered dish.  Cool the fillets then break them up into small pieces and mix with 200g smoked salmon, also in small bits.  Grate 150g mature cheddar cheese into a separate bowl and set aside.

3. To make the bechamel sauce melt 75g butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then whisk in 75g plain flour and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.  Gradually add 850ml milk, whisking until smooth, then allow to simmer and thicken, stirring regularly.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Make up the lasagne in a large ovenproof dish.  This serves 6 comfortably so don’t skimp on size!  Start with a layer of bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish, then cover with lasagne sheets (my dish needs 4 sheets per layer).  Spoon half of the leek and spinach mixture on top of the lasagne, followed by a third of the salmon.  I find the easiest way to do this is to pop on food preparation gloves and do it with my hands!

5.  Top with a third of the remaining bechamel and a sprinkling of cheese.  Repeat the layers (lasagne / spinach / salmon / bechamel / cheese) then top with a final layer of lasagne sheets.  Spoon the remaining bechamel all over, scatter with the salmon and cover with cheese.

6. Bake at 180 C / gas mark 4 for about 45 minutes until golden brown on top.  You can easily prepare the lasagne in advance and cook for a little longer to ensure it is heated through.  It’s perfect served with a green salad to balance the rich cheesy goodness!

Look for the rainbows

March 22, 2015

felt rainbow bunting embroidery hoop

polkadot bunting rainbow cake

Today was the dedication of my friends’ youngest boy, and I made these two gifts in keeping with those I made for his brother a few years ago.  Rory is Oliver‘s baby brother and he’s just brilliant!  He and Micah bring such joy to us all, they really are the rainbows amid the storms.  He now has his very own rainbow hoop, and we all enjoyed his rainbow cake this afternoon!

As usual I turned to my favourite madeira cake recipe (complete with handy tips) and got to make use of my new 6 inch tin for that wee top tier.  My trusty tool kit including a pizza cutter, ruler, tape measure and paint brush were put to good use.  It was also good to try making some fondant bunting, in the interests of wedding cake research; not long to go now!

The most important meal of the day

February 7, 2015


I’ve just discovered I  missed breakfast week!  On work days I don’t manage much breakfast as I’m too busy rushing around to get to work on time, but at the weekend brunch is my favourite meal of the day.  Partly because the contrast with my week days feels so luxurious, and partly because I really really love eggs.  In fact, I like brunch so much I even have a pinterest board dedicated to it!

I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of my best brunches with you, as captured on instagram (things might be quiet around here but you can still find me over there on a regular basis).  Clockwise from top left:

1.  Frittata can frequently be found on our menu, and is a great way of using up whatever’s in the fridge.  See below for a recipe.

2.  I’ve recently discovered green smoothies and they are taking my mid-week breakfasts from non-existent to refreshing and healthy.  This recipe is a good place to start, although I also love a spinach-orange-pineapple-grape combo.

3.  Another regular visitor to our breakfast table is some sort of strata.  There is a great starter recipe here, but again this is a good way of emptying your fridge.  I like to add bacon, chorizo, leek, spring onion, mushrooms, stilton … whatever is kicking around!  If you add enough eggs and milk there is no need to let it soak overnight, so don’t worry if you’re not that organised.

4.  I’ve shared my favourite pancake recipe with you before: gingerbread pancakes, best served with bacon and maple syrup.  Pancakes are handy if you don’t have much in the house, as even without the spices they make a great base for a hearty breakfast.

5.  Bonus brunch recipe: I’m intrigued by these cloud eggs!  Might have to try them tomorrow.

Now, on to the recipe.

Breakfast frittata

This recipe is fairly flexible, so feel free to change it up depending on what you have on hand.  The basic method is to saute meat and vegetables, then add eggs and bake until set.  This is one of my favourite variations:

1.  Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan.  Add 2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped.  Once the bacon is cooked, add 1 chopped onion and saute until soft.  Add a large handful of spinach and stir until wilted, then remove from the heat.

2.  Grease a large casserole dish (the prettier the better where brunch is concerned) and spread the bacon mixture over the bottom of the dish.  Scatter over 10-15 cherry tomatoes.

3.  Beat 5 large eggs with a splash of milk.  Pour over the bacon and vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and top with a handful of grated cheese.

4.  Bake at 180 C for 20-30 minutes, until set.  Serve slices with crusty bread or salad.


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