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GBBO Auditions

14 Dec


I’m disappointed, dejected and disheartened
I thought my time had come
I waited for that phone call
and couldn’t wait for the baking to be done
I tossed and turned all night
Read and dreamt all right
Baked a lemon drizzle
and a pale pastry pie
should’ve trusted my instincts
but the time was running high

A restful night I did not have
to Manchester I did ride
Spoke to many people
Worries with smiles did I hide
I was wowed by all the sundries
the cakes and chocolate tiers,
the breads and tartlets were amazing
I tried to hold my tears

I took a sip of water
tried to wet my parched lips
I was called to stand in the corner
for photos that weren’t hip
I smiled a cheesy grin
My bakes in front of me
I took a sideways glance
wanted to throw mine in the bin!

There were cakes of gold and chocolate hues,
strawberries and ganache
A huge domed volcano,
ready to erupt with chocolate ash
A beautiful garland of profiteroles was made
A well seasoned savoury bread, on the side was laid
Several tartlets and plaits of gold
came and went like stories untold
People standing proud like peacocks,
smiling sweetly as they went…

I waited for the screen test,
alas it was not meant to be
for in my spoken answers
I admitted I was technique free
I was called into the corner
was told my bakes were great
but my pastry and my naivety
was the downfall of me
Try again next year they said
Practice the baking of all four things:
Pies, pastries, cakes and bread
Bring the best of your high teas!

I slunked away unnoticed
A tear welled in my eyes
I dashed back to the station
looked for salvation
Thought of that damned pastry pie
wanted to throw it at a magpie
But I didn’t.
I took home my bakes
and reheated them instead
I cut away a slice or two
and ate them in gloom
Thoughts of entering the show next year
entered in my head
I sat and ate the pastry,
the filling savoury it was too
The lemon drizzle followed behind
with a hot cup of tea or two.

The Learned Kat


Our 21st Anniversary

14 Apr

We celebrated our 21st Anniversary yesterday. I mean, that appears to be a long time to remain with someone these days. In gay terms, in the  years we’ve spent together, we should’ve been courted, married and divorced hundred times over!

Anyway, what should have been a joyous occasion with friends  turned into a quiet day of cooking for two. But it had to be that way for us as my other half was experiencing severe pain from an abscess in his mouth…so everything planned was low key.

However, we managed to have a lovely day together and enjoyed a delicious home baked  sponge cake split into four layers and filled with fresh double cream, strawberries and dollops of lemon curd, with an ample drizzling of icing and fresh strawberries. I also baked a dozen cupcakes – vanilla sponge topped with fresh strawberries, zest of a lime and blueberries.


21st Anniversary


And a friend dropped by to hand over a bouquet of flowers to say ‘Congratulations!’

orange gerbers in vase


The Learned Kat

Two Walnut Loaves

26 Jan

I spent the evening cooking and baking. There wasn’t anything worh watching on television, I hadn’t any special plans for this evening and there wasn’t an open invite to a social event. So, to entertain myself and keep me occupied, I cooked chicken curry for dinner and two cakes in the loaf tin. One cake was Date & Walnut, and the other was Coffee & Walnut, filled and covered with whipped double cream and a smattering of walnut pieces.
I cut two slices of the Date & Walnut cake before wrapping it up to give to our elderly friend in the morning. The other cake was stored and served up over a period of three days. No wonder my glucose levels are going up and down but I can’t help but enjoy baking!

Date & Walnut loaf cake

150g Margarine softened

150g Self Rasing Flour

150g Light or Dark Brown Sugar

3 Large eggs

About 30 pitted and chopped dates

125g Walnut pieces/chopped walnuts

Mix the margarine and sugar until light, creamy and fluffy. Add sifted flour, mix and add the eggs.   Blend the mixture until it becomes a creamy batter. Then combine the dates and walnuts into the mixture. Place it in a 7in x 4in loaf tin and bake for about an hour or until golden brown at  170 degrees. Check the bake by inserting a skewer or clean knife in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready to come out of the oven.

Coffee and Walnut cake

Use the same ingredient as above but replace the dates with a cup of black coffee. Allow it to cool and then pour it into the mixture. Once the cake is baked and cooled down, pour more cooled coffee over the cake. Not too much but just enough to flavour it further and make it moist. Whip up some double cream and throw in a handful of chopped walnuts (optional) Cut the cake in half horizontally, spread the cream on one half, cover with the other half and on the top. spread with more cream and decorate with whole walnuts (optional)


Ah, Baking!

The Learned Kat

A Cake for Cancer

6 Jan

Last Wednesday, we went to the cinema. A 30-something man  greeted us and allowed us a free ticket into the film of our choice. Now, this man wasn’t just a random stranger. He is the son of a long term acquaintance, whom I shall name Elle. I have seen him over the years and have hardly managed to speak to him on an informal basis. When we used to see him with his mum, it was only in passing and we barely managed to exchange more than a few words. I think the furthest we got was either an acknowledgement of the head or wave of the hand or a monosyllabic “Hello”.  Over time, we have seen him grow his hair long, cut it short, gain weight, lose weight, move home, start jobs, dress against the latest fashion and trends in his own inimitable way, verging sometimes on what others would call a “goth” or “computer nerd” look, revert to more conservative fashions and just watch him grow into a quietly confident young man.

We only gleaned information about him through his elderly, yet exceptionally active mother. She was proud that he had managed to secure a part time job in a major cinema multiplex. If you go to the cinema on a regular basis, she said, he’d let you in for free as he is allowed special staff allowances and discounts. We didn’t take her up on the offer but if her son did see us at the specified venue, he would insist we went in at his discretion. We would rather not take up the generous offer and pay our own way as I don’t believe in taking advantage of someone’s kind nature.

Anyway, last Summer, Elle informed us that her son had been poorly for some time and they didn’t know what it was. He was going to be tested soon, she said, and hopefully we’d find out. He was tested for testicular cancer and the results were positive. When Elle told us, we were shocked. We knew testicular cancer can affect men of his age, but found it difficult to comprehend how it could happen to him.

We followed his medical and health experiences through what Elle told us was happening in his life. He was having to see the Specialists and Consultants, had surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, on medication and obviously sick leave from work. Gradually, we built up a picture of his progress. Elle informed us he was hoping to return to work soon as he was fed up of sitting at home, bored with the monotony of his routine. He just didn’t want his life to become one long session of hospital appointments and people feeling sorry for him.

We saw him on the bus a couple of weeks ago. I remembered him as being of medium build with thick dark hair. This time, he was looking softer, heavier and rounder than expected. I put this down to the side effects of the medication and treatment he received. He wore a woolly beanie hat. We spoke for about 10 minutes and he explained how he had checked himself during a shower and discovered a lump. He said he’d listened to the GP’s advice about checking balls for lumps and had gotten into a regular routine. He said he had found a lump and decided immediately to see his doctor the next day. So began the series of tests, assessment, medication and treatment. He said he wore the hat as he had lost all his hair but that was nothing to worry about as it’s only hair. He’d rather have his health back than his hair he said with a smile. Throughout our conversation he remained buoyant and optimistic. I couldn’t help but feel his hope and strength. We said our farewells and he reminded us that his  ticket offer “still stands.”

So, back at the cinema, he greeted us with a cheerful smile and said he was glad to be back at work, relieved that he was going to be on a gradual phased return to work process. I asked him if he had received a slice of the Christmas cake I had sent round to his mother. He said he didn’t like that sort of cake but preferred black forest gateaux or similar. I promised to bake one especially for him as he had been so kind and generous towards us. He laughed and said not to worry. In his approach towards us, he was friendly but still remained professional, courteous and polite in manner. He went over to a colleague to get our tickets. Another female colleague greeted him and must’ve said something to him as I overheard his reply:

” I’m okay. I’m at work. It’s not as if I’m going to die. These things can be cured you know!” He came away, smiling and handed us our tickets before seeing to the other patrons of the cinema.

As I said, I don’t really know him too well, but only through what I heard from his mother over the years. But I was so moved and touched by his bravery and courageous words, I didn’t think I had any option left but to bake him that cake I promised.


The Learned Kat

Hearts & Butterflies for Frankie

4 Jan

Last Sunday, I received a phonecall from a friend. She asked if I was still baking cakes. Of course, I replied. She then went on to explain that one of her workmates had enquired about ordering  a birthday cake with someone else but was let down at the last minute. Therein followed a four way conversation. As I spoke to my friend, she relayed details and quetions back to her workmate who was on the phone to her mother, conferring over the exact requirements. Once we established what was required, I confirmed the theme – Hearts and Butterflies, girly, all pink. After three days, this was the end result:


Hearts and butterflies for Frankie


Frankie celebrates her 21st birthday party today. I hope Frankie, her family and friends enjoy eating the cake as much as I enjoyed baking it!


The Learned Kat

Banana Cake

3 Jan

I had a strong urge to bake a banana cake tonight. I followed a recipe which I found in a magazine, but I varied it slightly using up leftover ingredients found in my cupboard.


200g soft margarine

200g light brown muscovado sugar

3 large eggs

3 ripe bananas mashed

50g walnut pieces ( although the original recipe called for pecans)

100g  dried mixed fruit (glace cherries, sultanas, raisins, apricots)

200g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

300ml double cream

2 tbs caster sugar


Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour and eggs, mix until a smooth consistency. Then combine the bananas and fruit into the mixture and separate into two 8inch cake tins.  Place in the oven at 160 degrees for about an hour until golden brown or insert a skewer towards the end of the cooking time to check it is baked through. If the cake is cooked, the skewer should come out dry. If not, then keep the cake in and make regular checks.

Once the cakes are baked, allow to cool on a rack. Then, whisk the double cream with the caster sugar until it is firm. Add a mashed or sliced banana and combine the two together. I spread all the cream onto the cooled cakes and sandwiched it together. But you can half the cream to cover the top, and decorate it with more slices of banana to give it that extra indulgent flourish. Slice when ready and enjoy!

The Learned Kat

Mini Christmas cakes

13 Dec

As promised, here’s the recipe and picture of the  mini cakes I baked earlier in the week. These are perfect as gifts, or as a sweet treat at a Christmas party.

Makes: 12 Takes about 15 minutes to make and approximately 25 minutes to bake (well, in my oven anyway!)


100g unsalted butter or margarine

100g caster sugar

1/2 tsp almond flavouring or vanilla extract

2 eggs, beaten

100g self raising flour

12 tsp sweet mincemeat or jam of your choice

Apricot glaze or jam.

To decorate, marzipan and ready to roll fondant icing

1. Preheat the oven to 180C degrees/fan 160C/Gas mark 4. Cream the butter, sugar and flavouring together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time with some of the flour. Stir in rest of flour. Spoon into 12 paper cases on a baking tray.

2. Top each cake with a spoonful of the sweet mincemeat or jam. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool.

3. Now, it’s time to decorate! Heat some apricot jam with a little water in a saucepan. Place on one side. Roll out marzipan and fondant icing and cut in small circles to fit onto the cakes. Brush apricot jam over the cakes, place marzipan circle, then brush again, place fondant icing on top and then add whatever Christmas themed design you like e.g. stars, bells, santa. I chose holly and ivy with edible gold/silver beads and smaller balls of red fondant brushed in edible red glitter. Or, if you like, once the mini cakes are cooled, rather than glaze and decorate with the circles, mix icing sugar with a little water, drizzle over the cakes and top with shapes made out of marzipan or icing!


mini christmas cakes

The Learned Kat