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IT’S MY BIRTHDAY… and I got given this beautiful, delicious cake… I LOVE JAM SPONGE CAKE.

31 May

Birthday CakeThis was the birthday cake I got given on Friday 10th May, ready for my birthday and party on Saturday 11th May.  I literally could not believe my eyes.  It was completely and utterly wonderful, not only because of the fabulous decoration and the lovely personalisation but the cake itself tasted delicious, moist, spongy and overall stunning.  I was one VERY happy lady, VERY spoilt lady.  My favourite things, flowers (specifically Gerbera’s) and cake.  EPIC.

The cake may have been a ‘simple sponge cake’ but that was a huge understatement.  Everyone thinks they can make a Victoria sponge cake and they can… it’s easy, but getting a ‘simple sponge’ to be indulgent and worthy of a birthday cake isn’t an easy task. It takes a while to perfect the basic recipe and the baking technique, but once you have got it – as Leanne Camilleri certainly has, you will be away.

Have you ever had a birthday cake from the supermarket… has it felt ‘fluffy’ in your mouth?  I have, and it did.  It also left a strange taste in my mouth and did not leave me wanting more.  Basically, the cake is made from non-fresh ingredients, so keep manufacturing costs low and to increase the profit margin.  So your lovely birthday cake will contain a range of dried milk, pasteurised eggs, syrup and raising agents – which does NOT say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

Here is an ingredient list of a standard sponge ‘birthday cake’ from one of the leading retailers…

Sugar , Wheat Flour , Pasteurised Egg , Vegetable Oil , Buttercream (9.6%) [Unsalted Butter, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Flavouring] , Raspberry Jam (8.4%) [Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Raspberries, Water, Gelling Agent (Pectin), Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid), Flavouring] , Glucose Syrup , Dextrose , Water , Emulsifier (Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) , Wheat Starch , Raising Agents (Diphosphates, Sodium Carbonates) , Maize Starch , Salt , Stabilisers (Xanthan Gum, Tragacanth) , Preservative (Potassium Sorbate) , Humectant (Glycerol) , Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid) , Colours (Anthocyanins, Carotenes, Titanium Dioxide, Lutein) , Vegetable Concentrates (Algae, Safflower, Beetroot) , Dried Egg White.

My lovely cake from Leanne Camilleri did not contain any of these unnecessary dried/pasteurised ingredients, it was very obviously made from fresh ingredients and this was obvious from the very first bite.  So I am going to provide you with a very lovely, very simple sponge cake recipe so that you to can make all your own sponge cakes from now on.  DO NOT BUY FROM THE SUPERMARKET, it’s easier, tastier and cheaper to make it yourself.

MY BIRTHDAY CAKE (a few images for you here!)

cake 7

With candles and complete with all my friends singing away!


… it’s time to make a wish!

cake 5

Time to cut the cake. Believe me I felt very guilty about this!

cake 4

The first slice is out…

cake 6

… and wow 4 layer! NOW TO EAT.

Leanne Camilleri makes cakes like this as a hobby, so if you would like a cake similar to mine, or maybe something more specific, do let me know and hopefully I can put you in touch with Leanne who can make you one of these wonderful, incredible, tasty, beautiful cakes.  I cannot thank her and my lovely friend for the generous thought enough.  You truly made my birthday.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME… It’s my birthday MONTH… so let’s eat cake & celebrate!

15 May

IMG_5335This month is my birthday month… so it’s only right to celebrate with cakes and lots of them.  All my friends will testify that I am the baker and for everyone’s birthday I always provide a cake.  I love making them, giving them and generally spreading the LOVE.  Which neatly takes me onto the cakes I made last night for the girls.  I decided (on getting home from work) that I would just quickly rustle something up and 45 minutes later (including decoration time) the cakes were made… and they tasted scrummy!

In true ‘gemsfoodgems’ style I decided to make these cakes healthier than just a normal sponge cake/cupcake, so I rifled through the baking cupboard (yes we have one of these in our house) and decided to change my normal recipe for this one… (see below).  The dark brown sugar gives quite a ‘fruity’, ‘rich’ taste and the wholemeal flour increases the fibre content but also makes it a slightly less ‘airy’ sponge.  Its a little more doughy and it tastes luxurious.

I then went to town on the decoration with a block of regal icing, some white chocolate icing tubes and some coloured sprinkles and (without blowing my own trumpet) I created a little bit of a masterpiece…

… quick, simple, pretty, yummy cakes.  What more could a girl want?

MAKES: 12 small buns


  • 5 minutes to make the cake mixture.
  • 30 minutes to decorate the cakes, depending on how elaborate you want the cakes to look.

COOKING TIME: 15 minutes


For the cakes…

  • 100g margarine
  • 100g dark brown muscavado sugar
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 50g plain self raising flour
  • 50g self raising wholemeal flour
  • 12 cake/bun cases

For the decoration…

  • 100g ready-to-roll regal icing
  • 10 – 15 drops pink food colouring
  • 1 tube of white chocolate icing (or any icing tube you have)
  • 1 pot of multi-coloured sprinkles
  • 1 love heart stencil/cutter (or you can freehand like I did)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4 and place the cake cases in a small bun tray – they are about half the size of a muffin case/muffin tray.

First cream together the margarine and the dark brown muscavado sugar in a large bowl.

Next break the 2 eggs into the margarine and sugar and mix together well.

Sieve the white flour and the wholemeal flour into the mix and stir in until there are no lumps of flour left.  You will need to stir right down to the base of the bowl, to ensure that you have got all the flour mixed in.

Place a dessert spoon size of mixture into each cake case and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Insert a knife/skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean then the cakes are cooked.  If not pop them back into the oven for 2 – 3 minutes and test again.  Carefully remove the buns/cakes from the tray and place on a baking tray to cool.

Whilst the cakes cook, you can start preparing the decorations.  Cut approx. 100g of icing off the block of regal icing, cling-film the rest tightly and you can save this for another baking day.  Add 10 – 15 drops of food colouring (start with 10 first) and then start folding the icing over the colouring using your fingers until it is all mixed in.  The colouring/icing will start to marble at first but just carry on.  If the colour is as dark as you want it then fine, if not add some more colouring and continue.

Your hands may be warm and starting to feel a little sticky.  The ONLY thing to stop this is cornflour, so sprinkle some of this over your worktop/table and rub some into your hands.

Place the ball of coloured icing in the centre of your workspace and cover with a little cornflour, turn over and repeat.  Rub cornflour all over your rolling pin and then gently begin to roll the icing.  Roll 3 times and then turn 90 degrees – this will keep the icing loose and prevent it from sticking.  You will also need to keep rubbing cornflour underneath the icing to ensure that it isn’t sticking, so do this each time you turn it.

Personally I don’t like extremely thick layers of icing, especially not on such a small cake (its also pure sugar, so its not exactly healthy!) so roll the icing out until it is about 3mm thick.  If you want to copy my patterns, then use this love heart below (print out the stencil) and cut it out the gently place on the icing and using a sharp knife cut around the template.


Perfect sized love heart for the top of your little bun/cake.  Print this off, cut around it and use it as your template.

Once you have cut out the love heart shape, gently free and place to one side.  Make 12 of these and then once the cakes are cooled you can get creative and start decorating your cakes.  So, squeeze a pea sized amount of the white chocolate icing, from the tube onto the top of your cake and then place the love heart on top of this.  Then you can use the white chocolate icing and sprinkles to decorate as you please.  These are some of the designs I made…


Use the white chocolate icing to make a little ‘u’ shape in the corner of the love heart, following the outline of the love heart and then sprinkle lots of sprinkles across the top, then pour the rest off, back into the pot.


Follow the outline of the love heart, about 5mm in from the edge with the white chocolate icing. Place sprinkles all over the top (a lot of them) and then pour back into the pot.


You could write some letters using the white chocolate icing. I wrote the word LOVE and then apply the sprinkles and shake off, back into the pot.


You could even stray of the love heart path and make something else, like this bow. Its simple and easy… you need 2 tails, one bow shape and one thin piece to put in the centre. Done. Glue onto the cake with the white chocolate icing and then you can decorate with icing and sprinkles as you like!

The most important stage of all though is in the eating… so give to your family and friends.  Impress them with your skills and ENJOY eating your cakes, with love and birthday greetings from gemsfoodgems.



WASTE not, WANT not… Lets make magic with our HOT CROSS BUNS!

3 Apr

20130402-211433.jpgMy mummy always taught me ‘waste not, want not’.  So, I didn’t and generally I don’t.  I make sure I eat everything that is on my dinner plate and if I have leftovers they make fabulous little lunches for the week.

I got home from work this evening, hoping to freeze my hot cross buns and was a little disappointed to find some of them were really quite stale (and I was running out of freezer room), so I had a new idea.  I decided to make them into dessert.  A bread and butter pudding style dessert.  Here we go!


COOKING TIME:  30 minutes

MAKES: 2 portions


  • 2 stale hot cross buns
  • 4 tsp of raisins/cranberries/sultanas
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10 fl oz of semi skimmed milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence


20130402-211340.jpgTake a oven proof dish and your 2 hot cross buns and break the hot cross buns up, into lots of smaller pieces (about 1cm to 2cm), you don’t want this pudding to be neat and even.  The more rustic the better.


To the broken up hot cross buns add your dried fruits.  Make sure this is scattered well and poked in all the little holes!


Finally you can make the custard.  So, in a bowl place the 2 egg yolks (only, no egg white) and then your sugar and vanilla – mix these together well.  Place the milk in a pan and heat gently until it comes to the boil.  Once the milk has boiled, pour this into the bowl with the egg, sugar and vanilla and whisk constantly.  Once the mixture has combined pour this back into the pan and heat gently.  Stir constantly and after 5 – 6 minutes you will have custard!

Pour the custard over the broken up, hot cross bun and the raisins and then bake this in the oven on 180 degrees / gas mark 5 for 30 minutes – or until golden in colour.

You can eat this straight away – whilst it’s hot.  But you really should share it with at least one other person!

HOT CROSS BUNS… with a *CRANBERRY* surprise… {mixing it up}

29 Mar

IMG_4724[1]For the last week I have been pondering what to do with my next batch of HOT CROSS BUNS to make them different from my last batch and to deliver something to you (… my friendly audience) that will be a treat, something extraordinary.

My inspiration came when I was treated to the ‘BOSTON BROWNIE’ from Konditor & Cook in Borough Market.  It was a true taste sensation – so much so, that I (gemsfoodgems@twitter) had to tweet a thank you!

The secret, making these brownies a real taste sensation was the addition of cranberries.  Yes, seriously – little explosions of fruit flavour in the middle of a heavenly, luxurious, chocolate brownie.  My brain started whirring and I thought… cranberry, orange zest… in my hot cross buns… THAT’S IT.

Without further ado, I present to you my CRANBERRY & ORANGE HOT CROSS BUNS.

PREPARATION TIME: 2 hours (including the proving time and time to make the shortcrust pastry)

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

MAKES: 12 Cranberry & Orange Hot Cross Buns


For the Bread Buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 250g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 60g light brown muscavado sugar
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 140ml luke-warm semi-skimmed milk
  • 130ml luke-warm water
  • 60g butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 1 large free-range egg (approx. 90g)
  • 100g raisins or currants (without seeds)
  • 60g dried cranberries

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 30g plain flour
  • 15g butter
  • water (cold, enough to bind together)

Sugar Glaze

  •  2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water


To make the bread buns…IMG_4725[1]

♥ Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in  the sugar, yeast, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, and make a well in  the middle.

♥ Mix together the warm milk and water and add to the bowl with the melted and cooled butter, together with the whisked egg.

♥ Mix to a soft dough using a metal spoon.

♥ Knead the dough on a  lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.  You will know when it is ready when the dough ‘springs back’, so shape into a ball, gently push your finger in about 1/2 a cm, then take it out – if the dough ‘springs back’ it is well kneaded – if not knead some more!IMG_4726[1]

♥ Shape the dough into a round and then place in a large bowl.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm  place for 1-1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

♥ Remove the dough from the bowl and ‘knock back’ using your fists – this removes all the air.

♥ Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 minutes  until smooth and elastic once again.

♥ Now add the orange zest, currants and the dried cranberries and knead for a minute until all the fruit is mixed into the dough.

♥  Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape into small  rolls.

♥ Perfect bun, now lets make the shortcrust pastry crosses!

To make the crosses…buns 3

I would make the shortcrust pastry whilst the dough proves.  Then you can wrap it in cling-film and keep it in the fridge until you need to use it.


♥ Roll out the shortcrust pastry to 5mm narrow strips – as you have 12 buns you are going to need 24 strands.

♥ Place one strip across the top of one of the bus, then place the other across this, to make a cross.  Press down lightly and if required, secure  with a little water and a pastry brush.  If you want to go a little crazy (like me) you could make some ‘shapes’ and place these on top – I have (as you can see) created little love hearts…buns6

♥ Lightly oil 2 baking trays, arrange the buns on the  trays and cover with oiled cling-film.

♥ Leave to rise in a warm place for 30  minutes or until doubled in size. Remove cling-film – it’s time to bake the buns!

♥ Bake buns in a  preheated oven at 220 degrees C / Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

♥ Transfer the buns to a wire rack.

To make the glaze…

♥ Heat the sugar and water in a pan, until the sugar dissolves.  Do not let the sugar/water burn or begin to caramelise.  Make this whilst the buns cook.

♥  When you take the buns out of the oven and place them on the wire rack, you can brush them with the glaze and then serve warm or cold.

♥ If you let them cool, you can slice in half the next morning, toast and serve with a little butter!  YUM!

Baked, glazed and ready to eat! MARVELLOUS!

Baked, glazed and ready to eat! MARVELLOUS!


The sugar glaze on these buns can make them go quite soggy, quite quickly and as they are fresh, with no preservatives the inside of the homemade hot cross bun can begin to go stale/dry quite quickly.  So, eat one or two fresh and store 2 or 3 in a large cake tin.  With the rest, chop them in half, put them in freezer bags and place them in the freezer for another day.

You know the days where its hard to get out of bed and there has to be something super special to make you get up and give you the start your day need.  I think these may just be that ‘kick start’.


WARNING: This recipe is NAUGHTY, but BOY they taste good… *MARS BAR CAKES*

28 Mar


This week, I got a real craving for something naughty, but nice.  So, with it being Easter and having a large box of cornflakes at home, yet to be eaten, I thought…


I ran home, purchased my ingredients and got to it.  Within 10 minutes I had made these little beauties, ready for my dessert.  They really didn’t take any time at all and they taste absolutely delicious.  I know my blog promises ‘healthy, nutritious foods’, which this recipe absolutely is not, but I think it is really important (as part of a healthy balanced diet), to know when a treat is acceptable. And, it TOTALLY is.

This is a great recipe to make with children, as it is no bake.  Though, I would suggest that the adult does the majority of the melting – steam can burn just as badly as water – so please do be cautious.

PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes (this could take anything up to 30 minutes with little hands!)


MAKES: 12 mars bar cornflake cakes


  • 3 mars bars (standard size)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 large handfuls of cornflakes – slightly crushed (you can add more or less if you like depending on how chocolate-y you want them!)
  • 12 mini eggs (you can eat the others!)


This recipe is so simple.  The first thing you need to do is place 3cm of water in a medium sized pan and then heat this up – so that the water begins to boil.  Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer.

In a bowl place the chopped up mars bars, broken up milk chocolate, butter, golden syrup and then place the bowl on top of the pan of hot water.  The heat from the water should heat the bowl and melt all the ingredients together.

You will have to stir the chocolate/butter/mars bar mix, so hold the bowl with an oven glove and do this gently.  The mixture may curdle to start with, but after this it will all come together nicely.

Remove the bowl containing the melted chocolate from the heat and to this add the cornflakes.  As you add them crush them just slightly – this will make it easier to mix together.

Mix the chocolate and cornflakes together – don’t worry if some break.

Spoon the mixture into your cupcake cases (it should make about 12 cakes) and then add a mini-egg to the top of the ‘nest’ you have created.

Leave to cool and then eat!  They will be quite sticky and gooey… which is just what you want!  HAPPY EASTER from gemsfoodgems.

This is how the finished cornflake cake should look... YUM! HAPPY EASTER!

This is how the finished cornflake cake should look… YUM! HAPPY EASTER everyone!

The ORANGE-IEST, Lemon Cake you ever did see…

11 Mar
My orange coloured Lemon Cake.  It was phenomenal :)

My orange coloured Lemon Cake. It was phenomenal!

My mother and I made the lemon cake together yesterday for mothers day, using the eggs we collected from the chickens.  We then devoured it with a large mug of tea!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to share the end result of this cake with you here.  It was fantastically orange (due to the eggs we used from our chickens) and it was beautifully lemon-y.  It really was a taste sensation!  So, if you are doing any of your own baking at home and can afford to buy organic, free-range eggs do – you will not regret it, I promise.

Do you want to make my lemon cake?  If so, you can find the link on the right of the page under ‘A little Lemon Cake for my Mother Hen’, or simply click on this link!

If you make one of your own do send some pictures over to me, or send me a TWEET @gemsfoodgems.

Just a few of the chickens for the eggs for my Lemon Cake... Thanks!

Just a few of the chickens for the eggs for my Lemon Cake… Thanks!

A little LEMON CAKE for my MOTHER HEN…

10 Mar

photo (11)photo (8)photo (10)photo (12)photo (13)photo (14)

I feel as though I am today introducing you to my sisters!  Since my sister and I ‘flew the nest’ my Mother has taken on several chickens to love.  We say they are her ‘designer chickens’ as each one is a little ‘different‘, has a funny little name and a very amusing personality.  If you hover over the pictures the chickens ‘stared’ will be revealed.

As I am home for Mothers Day this year, I have had the opportunity to bake with the wonderful Free Range, Organic eggs that the chickens provide us with on a daily basis.  For me, this is one of the most special things about coming home, to my mum.  Fresh Eggs.  We have scrambled eggs in the mornings on fresh bread and then in the afternoons we collect the eggs and bake a seriously delicious cake, which is beautifully orange – due to the naturally intense colour of the eggs.  There is nothing more wonderful.

Without further ado, I give you my mum’s favourite cake recipe which we have made together as a treat for MOTHERS DAY, and to say thank you to her for being TOTALLY FANTASTIC.

These are the eggs we collected this weekend from our chickens...

These are the eggs we collected this weekend from our chickens…


COOKING TIME: 30 minutes

MAKES: 2 large loaf cakes (8lb cakes)

If you want to make just one cake, simply halve this mixture.  We make 2 so that we can share them with family and friends.


For the cake:

  • 8oz (225g) Butter
  • 8oz (225g) Light Brown Sugar Sugar
  • 4 Free Range Eggs
  • 9 1/2 oz  (270g) Wholemeal Self Raising Flour
  • Juice & Zest 1 Lemon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • OPTIONAL: 2oz (60g) Poppy Seeds

For the lemon drizzle topping:

  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 5 tbsp sugar


The first thing you need to do (as always) is to pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4.  Then you need to line your loaf tin with baking paper or if you have it with a case/liner.

Then in a bowl you need to cream together the butter and the sugar.  It is really important for this stage (if you are not using a mixer) that you use butter at room temperature, as otherwise it is just too hard to mix them.  The creaming method is great for getting some air into the cake to, so keep mixing the butter and sugar until you have a light/cream coloured mix.

Now you need to gradually add your eggs.  If you are a regular follower of my blog you will see that I advise you to break the eggs into a cup and then add them to the cake one at a time.  So do this, then give the mixture a good stir.  By the 4th egg the cake mix may be starting to curdle/separate, so do add a tablespoon or 2 of the flour.

Next sieve the flour into the bowl and then mix well, using a folding method.

Zest the lemon and pop this into the mixture and then the juice of the lemon.  It is best to use a sieve to do this, or a lemon squeezer, so that you don’t get any of the pips in the cake!  (If you are using poppy seeds add them in here and mix again.)

Finally, mix well and then split between the 2 loaf tins and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Whilst the cakes are cooking prepare the lemon syrup drizzle topping.  To do this pop all your ingredients into a pan, bring it to the boil (just) so that the sugar dissolves.  You don’t want to make toffee, so as soon as it bubbles reduce the heat and keep stirring.  Put to one side, until the cakes are cooked, but stir every now and again, so that the sugar does not start to crystalize.

After the alloted cooking time, take one of the cakes out and insert a clean skewer or knife into the centre of the cake.  If it comes out clean then the cake is cooked.  If it does not, pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes and repeat this until the cake is cooked.  Remove from the oven, gently stab it all over (only about 1/2 way through the cake) and pour over the lemon syrup.  Leave to cool and then slice and enjoy… (with a cup of tea!).

Ps.  Remember to say thank you to your chickens if you are using home grown eggs!