Simplicity in all things (in the kitchen)

I like simple recipes. This is partly due to not having particularly refined tastebuds (I ate a lot of beans on toast as a child) but mostly because I am not a confident baker. I find it maddening when you want to bake a simple cake (but not a Victoria Sponge – I make those all the time) or some really chewy cookies but it’s impossible to find a trustworthy recipe online, or one that doesn’t list ingredients you can’t find in your local Morrisons (or other generic supermarket that isn’t Waitrose…)

So, good-listener boyfriend of mine bought me ‘Mary Berry’s Simple Cakes’ book for Christmas, and a rather posh set of Laura Ashley cake tins for further incentive. (I love tins.)

Think the boyfriend is hinting he feels underfed… 😉

I knew I needed to bake banana bread because I had some spotty ones which needed using or losing but I let the boyfriend choose the other recipe as he’s rather fussy. He gave me a couple of options and I chose the classic sticky gingerbread on p76 (there’s also a spiced traybake version on p66) as I’ve had enough chocolate over Christmas and wanted to steer clear of it.

Not being a regular baker I had to buy a baking tray for it and get in things like treacle and golden syrup. I also treated myself to some digital scales as my old ones aren’t always that accurate (which kind of misses the point when it comes to scales, surely?!). As with my sewing, whilst I’m building up my collection of tools and basic supplies, I imagine the bills will be more than I’d like but once I’ve established the nuts and bolts of it all it should be easier to ‘whip up’ a baked treat without too much fuss.

The recipes in Mary’s book are ridiculously simple, as the title suggests. This is perfect for me. I tend to get bored with lengthy descriptions and will inevitably cut (essential) corners, with poor outcomes. Just three steps to pretty much most of the recipes. 🙂

Prep time… I don’t know about you but I always double this figure! I’m just a slow baker. And with good reason as when I rush I tend to forget to add the baking powder and have a very flat sponge masquerading as a pancake on my hands. The gingerbread said it would take 15 minutes but considering you have to ‘gently’ warm up the butter and syrups and then allow them to cool before adding them to the rest of the mixture, I think 15 minutes is a bit unrealistic.

Ready for the oven (note the brand new, shiny tray – it won’t stay like that for long)

On a side note, I have a reasonable sized kitchen with plenty of worktop space and yet whenever I bake I end up scrunched up in one corner with all my clutter around me (I’m an untidy baker) and in real danger of knocking everything on to the floor. Why?! :s

Ooo, and baking gives me chance to wear the apron I made a while back, by hand because I hadn’t got my sewing machine yet.


I faithfully waited the entire 50 minutes as Mary directed without once opening the oven door or even hovering by it (well, not too much, anyway!). I had faith in the Berry.

Mary’s book doesn’t mention anything about cracks on the top… Have I screwed up?

I turned my attention to the banana cake whilst Ginger cooled. I added a little bit of dark chocolate to the recipe as I think it makes banana bread that bit better so I’m sorry to any Berry purists who might be reading this. I should have chopped them a bit smaller as they mostly sank to the bottom but that’s not really a problem for me.


It was slightly crumblier than other recipes I’ve used but perhaps that’s because I deviated slightly or I stuck a little too religiously to the one hour cooking time Mary dictated. Still, it’s moist and light as well so it still turned out well. I need a new loaf tin though – those silicone ones bow out and result in a very strange shaped loaf.

Back to Ginger…

I couldn’t help but say to myself what a ‘good, even bake’ it was as Mary so often does on GBB – the colour throughout was uniform. Mine turned out a little darker than the one in the book but this could just be a photography thing. I also couldn’t get wholemeal self-raising flour in Morri- I mean, my local supermarket – so mine was made entirely with bog-standard self-raising flour.


I found mine made 15 generous slices and, boy, is it gingery!! Despite only having four teaspoons of the stuff, it’s rich and warm and, dare I say it, a little Christmassy despite that having passed.

The verdict of the boyfriend?

“That ginger cake was well lush.” (wink)

Which is a rather fitting phase for a blog with the word ‘cwtch’ in the title!

My ratings:

Banana loaf: 7/10 overall. Easy to make and moist but also a little crumbly.

Classic sticky gingerbread: 9/10 because I can’t go giving away the 10/10 this early in the process can I?! 😉





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