A perfect blend

31 Day Challenge Day 14


As it’s a Saturday, like many other people, whose stomachs rule their heads I’m thinking of food. I’ve pretty much given up on my longtime favourite viewing Saturday Kitchen as it still hasn’t recovered from the loss of James Martin and continues to be hosted by an array of (albeit) brilliant chefs none of whom can quite lose that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look when reading from an autocue. (Mind you I’m not saying I could do any better).

Having feasted on a brunch of bacon & pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries (yes it does work) my mind is turning to the next meal, well actually it’s tomorrow’s lunch. We’re having a couple of close friends over and I thought I’d add some Middle Eastern flavour. So after flicking through my collection of cookery books I’m making baharat, an Arabic spice blend which I’ll rub on a shoulder of lamb that will be slow roasted and served with…well I haven’t quite got that far.

Whilst I was preparing the various ingredients I reflected on who it was that first came up with this mixture of flavours and how long it must have taken to get it just right. There’s black pepper for punch, paprika for sweet smokiness plus cumin, coriander, cardamon, cloves and nutmeg, a spice that always reminds me of my Mum’s Bajan cooking. It may not be the perfect blend but it’s a perfect blend – one of many mixes of balanced elements that hits just the right note. As well as cooking I’ll be knitting a few more rows of Sam’s hat, watching TV (not Tom Hardy’s brilliant Taboo we plan to record them all and binge watch it when it’s finished) and perhaps even indulge in a glass of red wine.

So, like me and my baharat I hope you’ve got a variety of indulgent enjoyable and/or delicious things planned this weekend.

Right, now the baharat’s done I’m off to shop for laminate flooring….

J x



Gin & tonic cake


Now just so you know from the outset I’m not claiming this  recipe as my own.  In fact I found it whilst trawling Pinterest for cake recipes to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary and whilst I’m more than happy to stuff my face with cake of almost any description Mr Sloan is definitely more picky. 10 years is a pretty good milestone for any marriage but ours has gone through LOTS of ups & downs and the part of the ceremony that mentioned ‘in sickness and in health’ has sadly kept rearing it’s ugly head. (No craniotomy pun intended). So when planning a little get together I wanted a surprise centrepiece that would sort of sum us up in cake form and, as any of our friends know how we love a good G&T, this cake ticked a number of boxes;

  • G&T is our favourite tipple
  • it’s definitely an adult cake
  • it’s not overly sweet
  • it lent itself to being pimped up

(You may also be pleased to know that it’s made with rice flour which makes it gluten free which is an added bonus if you’re gluten intolerant).

Now despite being a greedy cow and watching every episode of the Great British Bake Off I didn’t feel confident scaling this cake up by myself (blame it on the still wonky brain) and I also knew that if I was going to surprise Mr Sloan there’s no way I could bake it at home. So, I turned to my close friend Lucy (a trained chef) to give me some tips, give me a lend of her oven and stash the cake until needed. The original recipe by Victoria Glass can be found on the Great British Chefs website here and whilst I’m not going to re-publish all the ingredients here I will  let you know what we did differently.

The original recipe calls for a 22cm diameter savarin tin but as ours was for a centrepiece we made two cakes – each 3 times the quantity of cake batter – and baked in a 30 cm diameter tin. Neither Lucy or I had worked with rice flour before and whilst the recipe called for an ‘all in one’ method which made it easier the texture of the finished sponge was a little weird and completely unlike a sponge made with regular wheat flour. When the cakes were still warm we drizzled them with the syrup then allowed them to cool completely. If your sponge isn’t that deep just watch how much you use, you don’t want to make the cake too soggy. Now at this point I should say that we put the sponges in the freezer for a week because we were making in advance, it freezes really well by the way.


Around a week later we were ready to make the cake up so we sliced each of the cakes through the centre to make 4 layers then lavished 3 of them with lemon curd and Chantilly cream and topped them off with the 4th layer. We did find that the recipe for the icing produced a really runny consistency that wasn’t gin enough for our tastes so feel free to up the icing sugar and the gin to suit your own tastes. Just be careful that the icing isn’t too runny, you want it to sit on top – Lucy made me an icing bag so that I could pipe rather than drizzle the icing over it. You can leave the decoration at that or, as I did go all ‘cheffy’ and pimp your cake up. I decided I wanted to sink a bottle of 10 year old Tanqureray into the cake and decorate it with the fondant icing flowers to echo the dress I wore on our big day 10 years ago. So, at our last stitch and bitch we set about making. Now when I say ‘we’ I actually mean Lucy, Lucy, Katie, Clare and Wendy. I had a sudden attack of ‘diva’ and kept saying ‘that’s not what I want’ whilst unable to make any useful flowers of my own. (I blame the brain but someone had the cheek to mention post-marriage bridezilla, what a bloody cheek).


I love how the cake turned out, and more importantly so did Sam. Having sneaked around for 2 weeks (and after telling a few porkies about where I was going) it looked & tasted fantastic thanks to my wonderful friends.

Now the question is ….what do I do for our 20th?