My 2017 Reflections

Another year has passed and it’s been another big year for the blog! As the university workload grew in 2017, I didn’t have time to post as much on the blog. I posted 38 times this year but this doesn’t mean that I have posted elsewhere.

This year I launched a YouTube channel. Admittedly it has taken a backseat however I am happy with the content on my channel. I may post again on it soon, perhaps more casual videos as well as food videos but with my hectic schedule currently, food videos may have to wait a while because they take a while to produce and edit!

Instagram has been perhaps my most active social media this year. Whilst I may have not have the number of followers that other bloggers have, the engagement on my posts is still satisfactory to me. I heard that having 20% of your following like your photos is what you should aim for and the majority of my Instagram posts reach that baseline which is great news. Some of them even hit 30% and one of my posts, rather unexpectedly, got 220 likes which at the time was about 70% of my following. Which post was that you may ask? It was my first ever Semi-Naked Cake which I made without measuring any ingredients… check out the YouTube video on how to make it here!

I’ve also been lucky enough to do some more product reviews this year. Harts of Stur contacted me and asked me to review the Smart Bacon Express, which did the rounds on the Internet too. It got a bit of flack on social media for a bit pointless but I certainly understood the appeal of the product, despite being on the pricey side. Backdrops By Lucy also contacted me and asked me to review their Farmhouse backdrop. It made a huge difference to my photos and it elevated my photography to a new level.

Perhaps the biggest standout blog achievement of 2017 was reaching a total of 50K views at the start of December. It’s amazing to see how many views the blog gets even though I have been slightly less active on the blog this year. Another achievement of note is that for the past 3 months, my monthly views have surpassed the previous month before the last day! In December 2017 I managed to reach 3K views in the month, beating November’s record by well over 500 views!

Here are the Top 10 most viewed recipe posts of 2017:

  1. Giant Ben’s Cookies
  2. Recreating Wagamama’s Chicken Teriyaki Donburi
  3. Lidl’s Favorina Spiced Biscuit Spread Review
  4. Romaine Lettuce Kimchi
  5. No Fuss No Alcohol Homemade Mincemeat
  6. Gochujang Fried Rice
  7. Sweet Beancurd Soup (腐竹糖水, Fu Juk Tong Sui)
  8. Carrot and Onion Bhajis
  9. Chinese Coconut Milk Pudding (椰汁糕)
  10. Chickpea Chilli Con Carne

Once again Giant Ben’s Cookies tops the list of recipes viewed. It’s by far the most popular recipe on the blog and it’s hard not to see why, the cookies are so great!! My cheat’s mincemeat recipe did well again with a sharp increase in views as we approached the end of the year. It’s also great to see a couple of Chinese recipes in the Top 10 including my nan’s tong sui recipe (dessert soup) and my Coconut Milk Pudding – definitely check those out!!

Here are the Top 5 most viewed new recipe posts of 2017

  1. Recreating Wagamama’s Chicken Teriyaki Donburi
  2. Sweet Beancurd Soup (腐竹糖水, Fu Juk Tong Sui)
  3. Chinese Coconut Milk Pudding (椰汁糕)
  4. Homemade Salt and Pepper Tofu
  5. Salted Caramel Choux Buns

Here are my personal favourite recipe posts from 2017 that didn’t make it into the most viewed…

  1. Salted Caramel White Chocolate and Lemon Savarin

This was actually a recipe that I first posted last year but this large version was made for a pretty special occasion. This year I went to a recording of An Extra Slice again, the theme of the week being Caramel Week. The bake itself wasn’t tasted or featured on the show however I had great fun developing this recipe for a larger version even though it did take 5 hours to make from start to finish…

  1. Sausage Stuffing Bonbons

My Sausage Stuffing Bonbons were a pretty crazy invention. When I first made them, I didn’t think they were actually going to work but my word, did they work and they were awesome! It’s a glorified meatball essentially but with the added herby and peppery flavour of Cumberland sausage meat and the timeless flavours of sage and onion stuffing in the crunchy breadcrumb coating. It’s slightly mad and yet also slightly genius! You have to give these a try!

  1. Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares

This recipe was developed as a result of a mistake on my part. I originally planned to make gingerbread cutout biscuits but I left the dough in the fridge for too long so it was impossible to roll out but crumbled up beautifully. Then I decided to line a square tin with the crumbled up biscuit dough to make a gingerbread ‘shortbread’ and then I whipped up a cheesecake topping and we have Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares. Definitely give this one a go, not just around the festive season!

  1. Making a Semi-Naked Cake (without measuring any ingredients)

While the recipe itself is nothing particularly special or inventive, this recipe post will always be special since it’s the full recipe of my first food video on YouTube. I talked about it earlier on in the post and you can watch the full video above too.

  1. Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Mini Rolls

A new series of Bake Off on Channel 4 came with brand new presenters and a brand new judge. Prue Leith set the first Technical challenge to make 12 mini rolls with a peppermint filling. I thought peppermint was a weird flavour so I instead went for strawberry and coloured the sponge pink too for contrasting flavour and colour. I developed this recipe from scratch myself and I’m so pleased with how they turned out.

  1. No Churn Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black sesame might be one of my absolute favourite flavours and I was so excited to find some black sesame powder for just £1 when I went to Hong Kong this summer. I played around with it in lots of different recipes but by far my favourite was this no churn ice cream. The bitter smoky flavour as well as the charcoal grey colour is addictive and I even made some at uni and it went down well – it’s something a bit different but something you should give a go too!

Here’s to a brand new year on the blog. I hope that by the end of 2018, I’ll be discussing reaching 1,000 followers on Instagram, 2,000 followers on Twitter and 100,000 views on the blog! Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares!!


Spiced Christmas Tree Cake

Christmas is most definitely on the way… how can you tell? Well I went into Tesco the other day and they played 8 Christmas songs in a row. It instantly put me in the festive mood so what better time to share my recipe for this Spiced Christmas Tree Cake.

I found this Christmas tree pan in TKMaxx and couldn’t resist buying it and baking with it.  The tin needs to be well greased and dusted with flour in order to prevent sticking and to ensure the decorative details can be seen on the cake. The cake is great on its own alongside a hot drink or even with some hot custard for dessert but this time I decide to cover it in green buttercream and sprinkles so it resembles a Christmas tree.

Alternatively if you don’t want to cover the cake in buttercream, a festive dusting of icing sugar snow is just as effective as the green buttercream! In fact this method keeps the definition of the pattern visible, almost like a bundt cake!

Check out some of my other Christmas and festive themed recipes down below!!

Christmas Present Cake

Melted Snowman Chocolate Chip Cookies

Red Velvet Hazelnut Biscotti

White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn

For the cake:

Plain flour, for dusting

125g margarine, plus extra for greasing

125g granulated sugar

2 eggs

125g self raising flour

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

Pinch of ground nutmeg

For the decoration:

100g margarine or unsalted butter

220g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2-3 tsp milk

Green food colouring

Pearl sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a Christmas tree shaped tin well and dust with plain flour, throwing away the excess.

In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine with the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, scraping down the sides with a spatula after each addition. Sift in the flour and the spices and fold through until incorporated and even.

Transfer the cake batter to the greased and floured pan and spread evenly, making sure it reaches all the corners. Bake the cake for around 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the very centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.


Prepare the buttercream by softening the margarine in a mixing bowl and adding in the icing sugar in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla extract and enough milk to make a buttercream which holds its shape and is smooth enough to spread. Add a good amount of green food colouring to turn the buttercream into a Christmas tree green.

Place the cake on your serving plate/cake board. Spread the green buttercream over the cake evenly, making sure that none of the cake is visible. Press the back of a knife lightly onto the buttercream and lift up to create peaks across the entire cake.

Use the pearl sprinkles to create lines of tinsel and baubles on the tree.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares!!

Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares

The flavours of gingerbread instantly remind me of the festive season. While gingerbread houses (or even Gingerbread Ovens) might be traditional, why not put a spin on your classic gingerbread by turning it into these Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares?

Funnily enough this recipe was the result of a bit of gingerbread dough that I left too long in the fridge. As I began to knead it between my hands to warm up, it just crumbled away into pieces. It was at this point that I thought it resembled a shortbread mixture rather than gingerbread biscuit dough and immediately I had the idea to crumble it into the base of a tin, bake it and pour over some cheesecake mixture to make little squares.

This recipe is also perfect for making cutout gingerbread biscuits and gingerbread houses. You will only need to chill the dough for 20 – 30 minutes instead of hours in this case. The longer chilling ‘dries’ out the dough, making it crumbly and impossible to roll out but making it ideal for these cheesecake squares. This means you can also make the dough ahead of time!

To add a decorative element, I remove some of the cheesecake mixture and add food colouring to it. This small amount of mixture requires just a single egg yolk. The addition of yellow colouring emphasises the egg yolk colour and helps to create an attractive design. The mixture is too fluid to swirl properly but it doesn’t bleed and run either, allowing you to create a random pattern on the surface.

The backdrops used in these photos was the Farmhouse backdrop from Backdrops By Lucy – read my review of their product by clicking here!

For the Gingerbread Base:

125g margarine

100g granulated sugar

50g golden syrup

300g plain flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Cheesecake mixture:

250g cream cheese

75g granulated sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp mixed spice

1 tbsp plain flour

Pinch of ground nutmeg

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs, 1 egg separated

Yellow food colouring

In a pan over a medium heat, melt the margarine, sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is even. Remove the pan from the heat, leave to sit for 1 minute before adding the pre-weighed and measured dried ingredients into the pan and stirring until it forms a dough which is aromatic and fragrant, soft but not sticky and a deep brown colour.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc and wrap well in clingfilm. Freeze for 2 hours until very firm and then leave in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days.

When you are ready to make the cheesecake squares, preheat the oven to 190°C. Take a square of baking parchment larger than a 20cm square tin. Grease the tin and flip it over. Fold the parchment into 4 and place the point of the square at the centre of the bottom of the pan and cut from the corner inwards until you feel the pan. Open up, push into the tin and it should line the tin perfectly.

Take the dough from the fridge and crumble it up into a mixing bowl. The pieces should all be various sizes, ranging from large chunks to small pieces to fine crumbs. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and use your hand to press the gingerbread into a single layer, pressing right into the corners until even.

Prick the surface of the gingerbread with a fork and bake for around 20 – 30 minutes or until the base is set on the surface and golden around the edges. Leave to cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.

Prepare the cheesecake by beating together the cream cheese and sugar by hand until smooth. Sift over the dry ingredients and fold to incorporate. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Remove about 50g of the mixture and place into a separate smaller bowl. To the larger bowl, add the whole egg plus 1 egg white and beat to combine until even. To the smaller bowl, add the egg yolk and some food colouring to make it a vibrant yellow colour.

Pour the non-coloured cheesecake mixture over the cooled gingerbread base. It should be fairly liquid and it may run down the sides of the gingerbread base slightly too – this is to be expected. Slowly spoon over the yellow cheesecake mixture randomly so it creates a nice pattern.

Bake the cheesecake for about 25 minutes or until the surface is lightly browned, golden at the edges and wobbles just slightly in the very centre. Leave the cheesecake to cool fully in the tin before slicing into 16 squares.

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Product Review: Backdrops By Lucy

Backdrops have never been on my radar before as a blogger. I’d often use what I had around the house to take photos on, whether that be a wooden table, a slate or even some bathroom tiles (not actually in the bathroom, I bought them in the clearance). Whilst these have created nice photos, I definitely wanted to experience using backdrops and see how much of a change they could make to my photography so I was delighted to see that Backdrops By Lucy had chosen me to review their Farmhouse backdrop which you can purchase by clicking here (gingerbread shortbread not included!).

Backdrops By Lucy is a UK based business. The products are created by a professional product photographer for other photographers, crafters and bloggers. The backdrops are all from original photographs taken by Lucy herself and transformed into flexible PVC backdrops which are also waterproof and tear proof.

The backdrop arrived in a tube which has made for easy storage! Some of my other blog props take up quite a bit of space in my already small university room so it’s handy to have it stored away, safely too, inside the tube. What’s even better is that they don’t crease either, leaving the backdrops in perfect condition.

What immediately struck me was the quality of the product. Unlike the bathroom tiles and the slate, I could wipe this clean easily if I got a bit of buttercream on it for example. It felt sturdy too as if it would last me a long time. I couldn’t wait to have a play!

The recipes for the foods pictured below will be coming out over the next few weeks so stay tuned!!


The backdrops have dramatically increased the quality of my photos! My flatmates didn’t actually believe that the photo of the Gingerbread Cheesecake Squares were mine, they thought I’d taken it from a food magazine which I think is a massive compliment! I also had the same thought, I couldn’t quite believe that I had taken that photo either. It’s amazing how a simple backdrop has managed to elevate my photography to a new level.

The backdrops cost £25 for an A2-sized backdrop which seems a reasonable price given the fact that I have no previous experience using backdrops or any knowledge of the going price for other similar products. It is something that honestly I wouldn’t have purchased before because of the price and it’s something that I wouldn’t have thought I needed.

But now having played with the Farmhouse backdrop, I am tempted to purchase more especially with the amazing range of backdrops on their site! Seeing how much it has improved my photography, I may purchase another one in the future (but only when it’s not dark at 5pm anymore, seriously the window of time to take photos now is so small)!

Check out Backdrops By Lucy on Twitter and Instagram and make sure to check out their site.

As with all of my reviews, I keep the product after reviewing it but do not receive direct payment from this review. I have not been told to falsely write positive comments about the product and everything is my own opinion.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for Chocolate Popcorn Cake!!

Chocolate Popcorn Cake

While cakes with lots of sponge and buttercream layers may be amazing to look at, the simplest of cakes consisting of just 1 sponge layer with a glaze or topping are the ones I seem to make the most and this Chocolate Popcorn Cake is no exception!

The single chocolate cake layer gets a thin topping of my favourite chocolate glaze which sets hard – it’s the same glaze I used on my Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Mini Rolls. This adds a strong hit of chocolate flavour as well as giving the cake a wonderful crack when you slice through it! You could alternatively make a chocolate ganache and spread this on top too!

Topping the cake with a layer of my White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn is something a bit different but adds a huge amount of interest with a bright pop of colour. To stick the popcorn on, you have to work quickly as the chocolate glaze sets quickly and hard so make sure that the popcorn is broken into chunks already and on hand.

You can find the full recipe and method for making the White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn by clicking on the name.

For the sponge:

125g margarine

125g granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla extract

115g self raising flour

30g cocoa powder

1 tsp instant coffee granules mixed with 3 tbsp milk

For the decoration

50g dark chocolate

15g margarine

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 batch of White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl, cream together the margarine with the granulated sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs one by one, scraping down the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Sift in the self raising flour and cocoa powder and fold through until incorporated. Then beat in the coffee milk mixture until it is even and smooth.

Pour the mixture into the tin and level out the surface before baking for about 20 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the surface springs back when touched. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing the tin and parchment from the cake and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the White Chocolate Confetti Popcorn. Once the popcorn has set, prepare the chocolate glaze. In a microwaveable bowl, break the dark chocolate and add the margarine and golden syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds; the heat from the melted margarine and syrup should be enough to melt the chocolate too but if not, microwave for another 15 seconds. The glaze should be smooth, thick and shiny.

Working quickly, spread over most of the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and before it sets, arrange the Confetti Popcorn over the top of the cake. Leave the chocolate glaze to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving the cake.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for Quick Apple Lattice Pie!!

Quick Apple Lattice Pie

With the clocks going back last week, the winter nights are coming and nothing sounds more ideal than a slice of pie warm from the oven with cream or custard. I think that my Quick Apple Lattice Pie would make everyone happy!!

I’m rapidly finding that this first term of my 2nd year of uni is so demanding; I have so many classes, tutorials and lectures and I am missing way too many. My nights seem to be taken up with making notes every night so I am always trying to find ways to make quicker versions of food I want and it was apple pie this time!

Instead of stewing apples, leaving the mixture to cool and baking a large pie for an hour or so, I decided to thinly slice apples, mix them with sugar so they cook and caramelise in the oven while the pastry bakes. I find stewed apples tends to be a bit of a nonentity texture wise so thinly slicing and leaving some of the surface exposed through the lattice creates texture and bite. I add flour and line the pastry with oats to absorb liquid and prevent a raw soggy bottom.

You can use shopbought shortcrust pastry if you don’t want to make your own however there’s nothing tricky about making this pastry at all! The food processor is an essential piece of kit for making pastry in my opinion as it is so fuss free and so quick! There’s also less risk of overworking since you only need to bring it together into a ball and then it rests in the fridge before rolling out.

This lattice is very basic and by no means perfect either. I see on Bake Off that the bakers make the perfect lattice on parchment and then flip it onto the top of the pie/tart and I know that I could never do that because it wouldn’t make it in one piece so I do this lattice on top of the filling, alternating over and under the strips of pastry – the filling isn’t sticky so this shouldn’t be difficult.

For the shortcrust pastry:

250g plain flour

2 tbsp granulated sugar

125g margarine or unsalted butter, cubed

Around 40ml cold water

For the filling:

4 Pink Lady apples, cored and peeled

Juice of a lemon

50g soft light brown sugar

25g sultanas (optional)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground ginger

Pinch of ground nutmeg

¼ tsp mixed spice

1 tbsp flour

2 tbsp porridge oats (not instant)

15g margarine

Milk, for glazing

Apricot jam, for decoration

Double cream, to serve

For the pastry, combine the flour, sugar and margarine in the bowl of a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. While the food processor is running, add the cold water through the feed tube gradually until the mixture just comes together.

Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together with your hands to form a ball which is even and not sticky. Flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

For the filling, thinly slice the cored and peeled apples. Place into a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice to stop browning. Add the sugar, dried fruit (if using), the spices and the flour and toss together with a spoon until even. Leave to sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Set aside a quarter of the pastry. On a lightly floured surface, roll the remaining three-quarters of pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin and line a 18cm fluted tart tin with the pastry, ensuring the pastry is tucked into the corners well. Cover the base with the porridge oats and then top with the sliced apple mixture, avoiding pouring in too much of the liquid in the bowl.

For the lattice, roll out the remaining quarter of the pastry into a rectangle which is at least as long as the tin to the same thickness. Use a knife to cut out strips of the pastry and create a lattice on top of the pie by alternating the pastry strips over and under. Use the fluted edges of the tin to trim the excess pastry.

Divide the 15g margarine between the exposed holes of the pie and then brush the pastry with milk before baking the pie for around 25 – 30 minutes until the lattice is golden brown and the apples are soft.

Brush the top of the pie with some apricot jam mixed with some boiling water. Then serve the pie warm straight from the tin with double cream or custard!

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for Cinnamon Rolls made without measuring any ingredients!

Making Cinnamon Rolls (without measuring any ingredients!!)

Cinnamon rolls are utterly out of this world. There’s something about that slightly sweetened enriched bread dough swirled around that sweet buttery cinnamon sugar that cannot be beaten. Cinnamon rolls are a classic staple bake that everyone should make at least once but can I make them without measuring a single ingredient?

There is only one way to eat a cinnamon roll and that is peeling open the cinnamon roll starting from the outside. Inside you are left with that soft chewy bit in the very centre which is the ultimate sign of a good cinnamon roll. Usually cinnamon rolls are soft because they are baked in one tray which you then slice up; this recipe uses a 12 hole muffin tin to bake them individually, reducing the baking time but also allowing each cinnamon roll to have a fantastically sticky crust as the butter and sugar melt and ooze during baking. I finish the cinnamon rolls with a drizzle of icing.

The recipe I have chosen is much faster than your standard cinnamon roll recipe with only 45 minutes proving in total. Despite this, the finished product is soft, light and has a great texture.

I made a video showing the full stages of the recipe; check it out below! Continue reading to see the full recipe and method:

I was also told by my friends not to put raisins in my cinnamon roll and I was taken aback slightly because I had never heard of raisins being in cinnamon rolls… I genuinely didn’t know this was a thing until doing some more research and so many recipes had raisins as an optional extra at the end of the ingredient list; raisins are an unnecessary addition in my view.

400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

75g granulated sugar

½ tsp salt

1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast

1 egg

55g margarine, melted

About 240ml warm water

100g margarine, plus extra for greasing

200g soft light brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

40g icing sugar

2-3 tsp water or milk

Add the flour to a large bowl. Place the sugar and salt on one of the bowl and add the yeast to the other side of the bowl to avoid retarding the yeast and then mix well to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, melted margarine and about three-quarters of the water and use a wooden spoon to beat well until it comes together into a soft, pliable but not sticky dough, adding more liquid if necessary.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes until it is smooth. Place back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm and allow to prove for 15 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, beat together the margarine with the light brown sugar and ground cinnamon until evenly combined and soft enough to spread.

Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.

Knock back the dough and roll out the dough to a rectangle measuring 30cm by 23cm. Spread the cinnamon sugar margarine mixture over the dough evenly. Tightly roll up the dough starting from the longer side and then pinch together the seam to seal.

Trim the ends and then slice the dough into 12 even pieces. Place one into each hole of the muffin tin, cover with clingfilm and allow to prove for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Bake the cinnamon rolls for around 15 minutes until they are risen, golden brown and a thermometer registers 100°C when inserted to the thickest part of the roll. Remove from the tin immediately and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile prepare the icing by mixing together the icing sugar with enough water to form a thick but runny icing (watch the video to see the consistency it should have!). Pour into a piping bag and cut off a small hole from the end. Drizzle the icing over the cinnamon rolls and leave the icing to set at room temperature.

Serve the buns warm (reheat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds) with a cup of tea or coffee.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and make sure to check out my most recent recipe post for a Semi-Naked Cake which was also made without measuring any ingredients!